Since the start of her music career, indie-rock singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus has set high expectations for herself. Whether it be her previously acclaimed solo albums and EPs or her work with Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker in Boygenius, Dacus has made a name for herself through producing deeply emotional, thought-provoking and introspective works. With her latest album Home Video, Dacus continues her introspection, creating songs that play out like short stories about her own adolescence. Dacus’ third album is nothing short of a diary put on full display, touching upon themes such as the intricacies of queer friendships in one’s childhood, questioning mainstream religion and entering predatory relationships.
Home Video thrives in its minimalism. Mainly relying upon a typical four-instrument band setup (with a couple of synths here and there), Dacus’ obvious knack for songwriting is given the chance to shine through in all its glory — and that it does. Most tracks on the album touch on heavy subject matters such as strained relationships and suicide simultaneously, all while keeping a lighthearted air through the use of clever wordplay and surprisingly funny anecdotes about Dacus’ childhood. Take, for example, Dacus’ recollection of vacation Bible school as a queer woman in the track titled “VBS.” With lines such as, “Back in the cabin, snorting nutmeg in your bunk bed/ You were waiting for a revelation of your own,” Dacus perfectly captures the oddities and discomforts of Bible camp and balances such pains with childlike stories of 12-year-olds snorting nutmeg in bunk beds.
Although the album is similar to much of her past work with its alternative-folk style arrangements, Dacus does not cower at the opportunity to show off her musical range. With “Partner in Crime,” the album throws a curveball to its listeners, trading in the seemingly untouched mixes of Dacus’ vocals for an intense layer of autotune. While this may seem like oil in water for a minimalist indie-rock album, Dacus manages to make the song entirely cohesive with the rest of the album’s ethos. Recalling a predatory relationship between an adult and her underage self, Dacus sings, “When you asked my age, I lied/ I saw relief dawn on your eyes,” and, “Drop me off at the curb by my curfew/ Around the corner, so nobody sees you,” which poetically captures the disturbing nature of Dacus’ past relationship.
In “Please Stay,” Dacus writes about trying to talk her loved one out of suicide. Desperately listing off ways in which her love’s life could improve (“Quit your job/ Cut your hair/ Get a dog/ Change your name/ Change your mind/ Change your ways/ Give them time”), Dacus presents the panic that comes alongside losing, or coming close to losing, those closest to you. Though it is by no means an uplifting song, “Please Stay” is undoubtedly a shining track from Home Video as it entirely transports its listener into Dacus’ world — one with intense, uncomfortable emotions.
Home Video certainly does not fail to impress. Through the combination of easy-to-listen-to instrumentals with incredibly intimate and heartfelt lyricism, Dacus has produced an album that is as universally resonant and replayable as it is emotionally specific and biographical. Due to Dacus’ songwriting prowess, it’s unequivocally her best work yet, which is certainly not an easy feat. Diving deep into the realm of personal storytelling about her adolescence, the album’s tracks play as real-life renditions of Dacus’ incredibly multifaceted childhood.
Filled to the brim with ingenious songwriting, crystal clear vocals and emotions turned up to 100, Home Video is certainly worth a first, second or even a third listen. Made clear from the first track to the last, it’s an undeniably beautiful product of Dacus wearing her heart upon her sleeve, with “the pulpy thing, beating.”