Lucy Dacus – Home Video
Indie Rock | Indie Folk
Home Video feels like the missing piece of the puzzle for me, as it represents my first real exposure to Lucy Dacus. While I’ve been following her boygenius bandmates for a while now, for whatever reason I never ended up diving into her work the way I did with the rest of the gang of frequent collaborators. I’ve been following Julien Baker since her debut, and like the rest of the indie world I found found myself transfixed by and obsessed with Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher, but through no fault of her own Lucy had been relegated to being “the other one”. Diving into this latest album I was eager to change that and get a measure of Lucy as an artist for the first time.
Upon first listen however, no such revelation came. It took time to get my head around her approach as an artist, as well as what aspects she brings to the table for this modern indie holy trinity. I remember what first drew me to Julien was her arresting vocals, her unique blend of fragility and raw passion that felt like she was baring her soul for the world to hear. While I take no issue with Lucy’s vocals on this record, it has to be said nor do they steal the spotlight. Phoebe’s Punisher delivered rich and varied soundscapes, from the hazy and introspective to moments of grand chaotic fanfare; instrumentally Home Video is more of a mixed bag. The propulsive drums and the crystal clear melodies that ring out on ‘First Time’ are immediately reminiscent of The National at their finest, ‘VBS’ has a brief blistering grunge breakdown, ‘Partner In Crime’ is home to a superb fuzzy guitar solo, and standout single ‘Brando’ boasts some wonderfully bittersweet synth melodies as well as the record’s most memorable hook. But at the same time a sizeable chunk of the record is made up of very stark and austere arrangements, like those found on ‘Christine’, ‘Thumbs’, and ‘Going Going Gone’, which fail to really spark my interest, and some experiments like the autotuned vocals on ‘Partner In Crime’ end up missing the mark.
It’s only when diving deeper into the lyrics that this record really clicked for me. While each of the trio are accomplished lyricists in their own right, each has a different style and approach. Phoebe is prone to striking lines with hints of ironic whimsy, Julien is far more emotionally charged and visceral, and my take-away from Home Video is that Lucy’s songwriting feels the most grounded and human. In a way it reminds me of that kind of hyper-realistic approach to dialogue in movies; how it doesn’t lean too heavily on flowery turns of phrase or obtuse metaphors, it sounds like something a real person would say but with all the messiness of genuine conversation buffed out. I find it lends itself well to making the stories these songs tell feel more relatable. And the inspiration she draws from on this record, looking back over old teenage diaries, feeling those same emotions again while also looking through the lens of someone older and wiser, really plays to her strengths as a songwriter.
‘Hot & Heavy’ processes the onslaught of memories rushing back, the painful nostalgia that comes from revisiting people and places you once new, and feeling detached from your past self, that version of you that made those memories. ‘Christine’ and ‘Thumbs’ both deal with having to sit and watch a friend’s toxic relationship from the side-lines and urging them to cut and run, focusing on an unworthy partner and an estranged father respectively.
But it’s the final two tracks that most struck a chord with me. ‘Please Stay’ tells someone who’s struggling to carry on, to do anything at all with their life besides end it. “Go back to school, go back to sleep, Tell the secret you can’t keep, Begin, be done, Break a vow, make a new one, Call me if you need a friend, or never talk to me again, But please stay“. The frantic pleading, rattling off anything that might help them see the next sunrise, makes for some of the most arresting and heart-wrenching lyricism I’ve heard in a long time. The nearly 8 minute ‘Triple Dog Dare’ then follows up by ending the record on a more hopeful note. It looks back on a past friendship, back before coming out, and realising that there could have been more to it. When so much of the record is dedicated to recounting the past and looking at it from new angles, this track stands apart by rewriting it. ‘Triple Dog Dare’ offers a new ending, where the two realise and accept what they’re feeling and run away together, far from those that would keep them apart.
While as a record Home Video is somewhat flawed and didn’t offer the strongest first impression, in its finer moments I feel it worked well as an introduction Lucy Dacus’ style and sensibilities as a songwriter. It’s a little inconsistent, and would benefit from more fleshed out arrangements, but the lyricism is stunning throughout and to that end the album was well worth investing the proper time and attention.