Lucy Dacus
Historian


3.5
great

Review

by neekafat USER (50 Reviews)
September 20th, 2018 | 111 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "I'm just as good as anybody / I'm just as bad as anybody"

Lucy Dacus is in over her head. She’s recently found herself among indie folk giants Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, both of whom have carved out respective niches in their genre that speak volumes of their personal struggles while maintaining a unique musical voice. While Dacus is clearly quite close with these musicians, one would be hard pressed to say she’s done the same, or nearly as effectively. What’s more, according to Dacus, this album is her defining statement as an artist.

“This is the album I needed to make. Everything after this is a bonus.”

As lovely as Historian can be, it’s hard to imagine someone being so assured of it. Making a declaration such as this can be dangerous—turning it into something even more personal while at the same time putting an enormous amount of pressure on the work to deliver exactly what you want to your audience. This kind of notion can make even a good album like this one seem lackluster.

After all, this album is not a work of lyrical genius. Tracks like “The Shell” feel weirdly cloying for the genre. Rather than being emotionally open-hearted or vulnerable, her words almost conjure a Katy Perry song fed through a sadgirl indie cheese processor when she sings “You don’t wanna be a creator / Doesn’t mean you’ve got nothing to say.” These mawkish lines are sandwiched between eerie verses and a bridge with surprising power, none of which feel like they should exist hand-in-hand with each other. In fact, it really is these "sadgirl" influences that shoot themselves in the foot. Mid-album track “Yours & Mine” maintains a pleasant folky tone while bashing the same notes and lines over and over to the point of boredom.

In other instances, she’ll take her subdued landscapes deadly serious without convincing us that she’s even feeling what she’s singing. It feels like an act at times. Mundane one liners such as ”You got a 9-5 so, I’ll take the night shift" are repeated endlessly in an often unaffecting vocal performance. Even some of the most triumphant moments of the record are paralyzed by her husky, unchanging voice. It isn’t that she’s an untalented singer, it’s just that she rarely let’s it shine. It can be interesting and dynamic, but it rarely is. When she toys with it, it’s obvious that it’s not the voice itself that’s the problem, it’s the lack of a plan of what to do with it.

The whole album effuses a sense of comfort. Not in the audience, but in the performers. She never seems to be challenging herself emotionally, and only does she do something truly exciting musically. Nevertheless, these few moments of musical ingenuity prove to be the most memorable and impactful on the record. “Timefighter” soars above any other track here. It not only fits her voice painfully better than the rest of the album, but it acts as a rocketship of skyscraper sized guitars and bluesy, bassy thumps that grows surprisingly and naturally as it continues on, only solidifying the potential that Dacus hints at on this record. She has incredible guitar instincts when she actually shows them, and these blues-rock crunches are more believable than any of her teen-girl love-yourself lyrics, and they equally eclipse the constant splashes of horns and strings found on other tracks that often feel colorful but not quite true. These progressive and rocking inclinations that she showcases on this track and “Pillar of Truth” are far more promising than anything she attempts in the style of her close peers.

On the closer “Historians,” the album ends in a far better place than it begins. Her voice takes on an ageless, omniscient quality that was always lurking in the background. It suggests a wisdom beyond her years, an outsider looking in, and as she croons over mellow strings and subdued electronic blips, all of her promise shines through in these final moments.

On “Timefighter,” Dacus asks of us ”Will you remember me as I am now"" What I’m wondering is, ”Will she want us to"” Believe me, I know how easy it is to look at a work of art you’ve just spent years crafting and decide that this is all that you want to say. But in doing so, she’s discounting everything that’s to come. It’s as if what she’s going to want say is ultimately less important to her than what she’s got to say now. But maybe that’s just how it’s got to be for everybody. If we endlessly thought of the future, we’d never be able to make peace with now. And that’s likely what Dacus has done with this album: she’s finished with her past so that she can look to the future. I just disagree with her that this is her definitive statement as an artist.

I think that’s yet to come.



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user ratings (88)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Brendan Schroer (4.5)
"I'll be your historian, and you'll be mine; and I'll fill pages of scribbled ink, hoping the words ...



Comments:Add a Comment 
neekafat
September 20th 2018


14310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

If it wasn't for "Timefighter" this would be an easy 3

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2018


515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i think she is better than people give her credit for. i do like baker and bridgers more, but she does something a little different from them

neekafat
September 20th 2018


14310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh definitely! I just don't think her differences are as pronounced/interesting

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2018


515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i think she is closer to 'generic' indie than they are, i guess because of the arrangements on here, which seem more traditional to me. i would probably rate it the same as you; there are some really strong songs



good review

neekafat
September 20th 2018


14310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Appreciate it a bunch man!

Yeah, like said I in the review she's better the farther she strays from the "indie" sound and I'd really like to see her make a straight up rock record similar to "Timefighter" or something

theBoneyKing
September 20th 2018


16035 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

What did I rate this

Edit: 4 seems a bit high in retrospect but I guess I’ll keep it there

Digging: Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West

WatchItExplode
September 20th 2018


6350 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I really like this gal and the few standouts here but at times it's all just a bit plain.



Enjoyed seeing her live at a festival quite a bit. She's got a solid backing band.

neekafat
September 20th 2018


14310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh I bet she's cool live!

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2018


56343 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

only heard a couple songs and wasn't too impressed

neekafat
September 21st 2018


14310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Which ones, you remember? Everyone should hear "Timefighter"

Toad
September 21st 2018


1994 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is definitely underrated - dacus' writing is super understated yet elegant and powerful. really love the growth she shows on here from her debut

neekafat
September 21st 2018


14310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't know if I could call this elegant... But it's definitely an improvement

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2018


515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

the last song is definitely a knockout

luci
September 21st 2018


10559 Comments


was a good career move to present herself as an equal to baker and bridgers. mediocre artist

neekafat
September 21st 2018


14310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah for anyone curious for choice cuts, I'd definitely go with "Historians" and "Timefighter"

WatchItExplode
September 21st 2018


6350 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

She was super cool live. I had never even heard of her and she was a festival standout for sure. By the end of the set I had taken a mental note to pick up this album. Still a cool album but lost a little of it's impact apart from the performance.

neekafat
September 21st 2018


14310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I can imagine, I'm excited to see her with Bridgers and Baker then!

theBoneyKing
September 21st 2018


16035 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lol Dacus wipes the floor with Baker

NorwichScene
September 21st 2018


2796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I didn't really like Timefighter. Current order would be Baker, Bridgers, Dacus.



Pheobe could top it, depends on her next album. 7 weeks today until Boygenius, all 3 together should work well

neekafat
September 21st 2018


14310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well there goes my approval rating



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