Come one, come all to the premiere of ‘Home Video,’ Lucy Dacus’ bold and brave documentary (and third album).
Stream: ‘Home Video’ – Lucy Dacus
It has been three years since we’ve heard from Lucy Dacus. She left us with Historian in 2018, food for relational thought, dissecting her friendships and relationships with her gentle intensity. Now she gives us Home Video, a collection of the confidential and the cosmic (out June 25, 2021 via Matador Records).
Home Video is new, as we see Dacus use hindsight to its full potential, both in a distracted thought during a pastor’s sermon or a moment in the backseat of a friend’s car. Naysayers will blame it on the barely developed frontal lobe and the raging hormones, though Dacus thoughtfully captures her youth. She writes of sunlit days and foggy nights filled with what an outsider would deem insignificant. Though that’s Dacus’ superpower: she turns a moment into an eternity.
Being back here makes me hot in the face
Hot blood in my pulsing veins
Heavy memories weighing on my brain
Hot and heavy in the basement of your parents’ place
You used to be so sweet
Now you’re a firecracker on a crowded street
Couldn’t look away even if I wanted
Try to walk away but I come back to the start
We begin with Dacus’ best venture at indie-pop to date, “Hot & Heavy.” The track charms the mind with its vivid and almost cinematic lyricism and conquers the body with its pulsing guitar and drums. It makes for an interesting choice as an opener, the intensity is hardly matched by any other track on the record. Instead, Dacus pivots to her indie/rock and folk sounds. Running through the album like a golden thread is a sense of disconnect. Dacus is limited, whether it be by the religious community she was raised in, her sexuality which was quickly deemed ill-decided and inappropriate, or her anxious hesitancy to materialize her wants. This is where Dacus’ artistry is found, in her self-proclaimed and self-expressed limitations.
“Cartwheel” is a canticle, beautiful and simple. The track is sandwiched between “VBS” and “Thumbs,” and its light, continuous sound is a stunning contrast. Dacus’ voice swings back and forth between the carefully plucked guitar and her harmony, as she draws her breaths quietly in the tiniest gaps of the melody. The lyrics are enough to make your highschool stomach drop, as Dacus remembers, “When you told me ‘bout your first time, A soccer player at the senior high, I felt my body crumple to the floor, Betrayal like I’d never felt before.” Dacus mourns with half-hearted confusion, as she remembers a vow to “build a house of twigs and vines, grow old together just to pass the time.”
Immediately, we are thrust into the jarring world of “Thumbs.” Dacus explores violence, as seen in “Night Shift” years ago. Her own masochistic tendencies ran rampant. Once romantic, the impulses take on a different form in “Thumbs,” where Dacus throws her punches at a friend’s absent father. Dacus is first and foremost a friend, serving as a stress ball and sounding board for a distressed daughter. Dacus is filled with desires, ones that crash and burn within her, demanding a way out. Somewhere there is a world where two live together in a handcrafted cottage, where a birth father confronts his mistakes with an apology and a head hung low, where yearning for a touch begins with a nervous reach and ends in a warm embrace.
Somewhere in the world there, is a father and a mother
And the father is a son, who has a mother
The mother has a daughter who gets married to the brother of a mother
And they all just tryna multiply with one another
‘Cause that’s just the way of the world
It never ends till the end, then you start again
That’s just the way of the world…
Somewhere in the world, they think they’re working for themselves
They get up everyday to go to work for someone else
And somebody works for them and, so, they think they got it made
But they’re all just working to get paid the very same
Next, we head to Vacation Bible School with “VBS,” home of a summer filled with four chords and a single strumming pattern. After years of a turbulent relationship with faith, she returns to what she knows to be sacred, the secrets she keeps from the preachers and camp counselors to this day.
Days were spent with “Hands above our heads, reaching for God,” as Dacus knows she didn’t feel Him there. Puritanical church culture set the schedule, and secularism was swept under the rug with other undesirables.
Walking the tightrope between religion and relationship, she writes of a friend, “You say that I showed you the light, But all it did in the end, Was make the dark feel darker than before.”
Dacus does not believe in small; there is a gentle empathy to her approach of the cut-throat. She is compassionate, singing as if she has lived it all, which, in a way, she has. “Please Stay” delivers a body blow, partly due to the Boygenius reunion, where the three part harmonies between Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers feel like coming home. The track makes a case for life to a suicidal friend, with Dacus describing “the hunting knife you kept by your bed, the flowers you dried up and tied with twine, suspended from the ceiling.” The images culminate as you close your eyes as the rhythmic guitar and Dacus’ clear voice lull you to sleep.
No matter how you get through the day, Dacus begs you to stay. We end with “Triple Dog Dare,” as Dacus tells of an early experience with her sexuality. She admits, “I never touched you how I wanted to.” She is bound by constraints not of her own, needing permission from an already suspicious mother to see her counterpart. She asks and answers, “If the door were to open, would you walk through the frame? If you’re too afraid, it won’t be you I blame.” “Triple Dog Dare” is reminiscent of Dacus’ signature sound, fixed with her long, laser-focused storytelling and powerful drums and guitar. Dacus wants to run from this, not run away. To find a home within herself and with her counterpart, to accept who she is and walk with love every step of the way.
Home Video is an interaction, not an intervention.
This record makes me hope to run into Dacus at a party, to stand in the corner and gradually unearth each other’s traumas over the sound of radio hits. It does not get stuck in the cycles of the past, and demands that you break away too. So enter into Dacus’ world and move forward, one step and one memory at a time.
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📸 © Ebru Yildiz
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