Lucy Dacus is only 22 years old, and she has a lot to say. And we are listening. Very few people her age let alone twice her senior are able to passionately and expressively articulate their emotions and experiences as Dacus does on her triumphant sophomore album, Historian. The record is not merely a personal account of Dacus’ life, but how the world has changed since she released her debut, 2016’s No Burden. It is powerful and empowering, relevant and provocative.
Like many women and young people today, Dacus refuses to stay silent. The LP’s centerpiece, “Yours and Mine”, encapsulates Historian‘s tone and purpose. Written after participating in 2017’s Women’s March, the song slowly builds from a meticulous tune to a stirring rocker. Dacus’ lyrics hit even harder. Her words, however, are diplomatic, recognizing that we are all in this together:
“For those of you who told me I should stay indoors
Take care of you and yours.
Take care of you and yours.
But me and mine (me and mine),
Me and mine (me and mine),
We’ve got a long way to go
Before we get home
‘Cause this ain’t my home anymore.”
On the eerily-delivered “Body to Flame”, Dacus tackles societal expectations of what a woman ought to be and their impact on her. “I regret ever implying that you could be better. Didn’t mean to empty your perfect body”, she sings with acerbic bite. Her voice becomes tender on the shimmering rocker, “Nonbeliever”. Elevated by the addition of strings, Dacus tells the tale of a person leaving home to find herself. It’s a journey that many can relate to, thinking that everyone but yourself has “figured it out”.
These stories of the human experience are where Dacus truly shines. Beneath the delicate indie-rock approach that soars in its climax, “Addictions” unravels the puzzles in our minds. Dacus beautifully describes the love and turmoil that occupy our thoughts, as the varied arrangements and unexpected bursts of horns brilliantly capture the storms that brew inside us. The slow-building rocker “Night Shift” is one of the most endearing fuck-off songs of the year (if not all-time). There’s no aggression in her actions nor words, just disgust – “The first time I tasted somebody else’s spit, I had a coughing fit.” On “Next of Kin”, Dacus gets introspective. Through the classic, East Coast indie-rock approach, the Virginia native offers a reminder to herself that it’s o.k. to be vulnerable and living in the moment is not a sin.
For all the vulnerability Dacus displays throughout the record, she exposes herself the most on two songs. The first is “Timefighter”, which is a dark and gritty tune that features Dacus’ vocals floating over top a blues-influenced guitar arrangement and organ. Her voice is subtle and barely wavers, yet her lyrics reveal the state of her body and soul.
“And I fight time.
It won in a landslide.
I’m just as good as anybody.
I’m just as bad as anybody.”
The second is “Pillar of Truth”, which is a beautiful ode to someone close to her heart. As the music slowly builds to its magnificent climax, Dacus emotionally explains how this one person (likely her mother) has been a rock, her “pillar”. The song is the recording of a memory, a letter goodbye, and a dedication to one person’s resilience. Just as what her hero showed her, Dacus demonstrates her own strength on Historian. A strength that is subtle yet powerful, revealed in her words and the stories she tells about us and her. She may only be 22 years old, but we listen intently to every word she sings. We listen because Dacus has moved us in a way very few albums can, making Historian one of the year’s stand-out records.
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