Lucy Dacus: Historian Album Review

By Troy Vita
Music Director

Artist: Lucy Dacus
Album: Historian
Label: Matador
Release Date: March 2, 2018

Lucy Dacus (day-kiss, not dah-kiss) burst onto the indie rock scene in 2016 with her self-released album No Burden, which caught the attention of Lollapalooza, NPR Tiny Desk and Matador Records. Matador rereleased the project to critical acclaim before the end of the year. As one of the buzziest new artists, she had a lot of pressure on her two years later when it came time to release her follow-up, Historian. What she gave us is arguably the most sonically diverse and lyrically dense albums of this year.

Historian builds and swells, hopping between genres and dynamics with grace while Lucy Dacus’ voice soars and broods, singing about heartache, lost friendship, death and faith with a level of perception and raw emotion that can only come from someone who has lived it again and again. It’s extremely rare to hear an album that hits this perfect balance between rich, poetic lyrics and heartfelt honesty. The album is equal parts melancholic and anthemic as Lucy Dacus and her band explore the sounds of indie rock, fuzzy garage rock, folk, alt-country, dream-pop and brooding synth-pop with elements of countless others weaved into it.

The album draws you in with “Night Shift,” a six-and-a-half minute build up of an opener. She addresses an unfaithful lover and her process of deciding to cut him out of her life. She starts out by softly, but firmly, rebuking the antagonist with lines like “Am I a masochist, resisting urges to punch you in the teeth…” questioning herself with the refrain of “I feel no need to forgive, but I might as well…” and landing on the climactic, distorted guitar-driven chorus of “You work a 9 to 5, so I’ll take the night shift; and I’ll never see you again if I can help it.” This saga of a song is followed up with the horn-flared indie rock powerhouse “Addictions” and the fuzzed out dream-pop ballad “The Shell.” It hits high-point after high-point with the alt-country slanted “Yours & Mine,” the driving and insightful look at mortality on “Next of Kin,” the lengthy and emotional story of losing a loved-one on “Pillar of Truth” and finally the cathedral echo of the orchestral closing track “Historians.”

Historians is the sound of an artist hitting her stride. This will go down, at least on my lists, as one of the best albums of the year. Lucy Dacus captivates with her songwriting, vocal range and musical exploration. If she isn’t your favorite new artist already, you need to give this album a few listens.

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