Lucy Dacus
Historian


4.5
superb

Review

by Brendan Schroer USER (132 Reviews)
December 12th, 2018 | 22 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "I'll be your historian, and you'll be mine; and I'll fill pages of scribbled ink, hoping the words carry meaning"

Let me start this off with something really obvious: it’s very clear that Lucy Dacus is the odd man out (odd woman out") from the rest of Boygenius. No, I’m not talking about her contributions to the group; rather, I’m talking about individual solo work. Oh sure, she has her share of maudlin folk expressions that could land her alongside the likes of other sadcore songstresses dominating the indie blogosphere today. But the real differences start appearing in her approach to more dynamic and bombastic tunes; the peppy drums start popping, the guitars begin wailing like we’re listening to a 70s cock rock band, Dacus begins to have a bluesy swagger to her voice, and… whew! It’s actually quite exciting just to describe Historian, but that’s because describing it is still nothing like actually hearing it for the first time.

And yet, upon listening to the beginning of opener “Night Shift,” you may not even know what I’m talking about. What you’re greeted with is a low-key ballad that slowly trudges through relationship troubles with some questionable lyrical choices (“the first time I tasted somebody else’s spit/I had a coughing fit”), and indeed, the track seems like an odd choice for an opener. Granted, we’re already treated to some of the tricks in Dacus’ arsenal; clean, shimmering guitars fit perfectly with the crystal clear production, and the way she combines melancholic and euphoric melodies is quite admirable. But then that climax hits. The distortion crackles in the proverbial sky, and Dacus herself lets her voice soar into the clouds. The lyrics are still nothing extraordinary, but the singer gives so much weight to them that she’d might as well be singing the last lines she’ll ever belt out before she dies.

Thanks to moments like this, there’s a sense of conviction on Historian that surpasses many of Dacus’ current indie rock/pop peers. A lot of indie artists (not all, mind) get caught up on a certain deadpan irony that flattens their emotional appeal - and Historian does in fact partake in some of that - but for every moment that you visualize a blank, pokerfaced expression on Dacus’ face, a burst of unhinged sincerity will be right around the corner to offset it. For instance, “Next of Kin”’s verses feature punchy, to-the-point vocals that almost sound expressionless, but they’re greeted with that emotive and catchy-as-hell chorus that brings everything into context; the explosive guitar distortion that closes the song is icing on the cake. The entire album is a giant battle of contrasts, really. Just listen to the way that “Body to Flame” tries to juggle beautiful string arrangements with weird off-kilter guitar dissonance; just as the latter sounds poised to undermine the former, all it really does is create a little tension to keep you on your toes in a subtle way.

At the center of it all is still Lucy Dacus herself, who proves herself to be a woman of quite a few talents on Historian. Not only is her vocal work great, but I don’t think enough attention has been paid to her incredibly proficient and emotive guitar playing. The light blues she sprinkles all over “Timefighter” has many shades of 90s-era Eric Clapton, and her warm leads are a wonderful way to compliment her sexy, sultry low register. Similar sentiments could be shared regarding “Yours and Mine,” which sets the same blues elements to a fun lowkey stomp that could lend itself to crowd participation during live shows. But really, the biggest highlight of Historian is the mini epic “Pillar of Truth,” which is an utter masterpiece of build-ups and dynamic shifts. Once again, the guitar work is on point; Dacus’ playing ranges from indie pop balladry to blues hints to baroque pop touches, concluding with an incredible hard rock catharsis. Her voice is similarly impressive, even ending on a nice little scream at the climax as she hits an amazing emotional peak for the album.

With such variety and range, one could certainly make the accusation that Lucy Dacus is dipping her toes into too many pools at once, and it’s criticism I understand. Does she want to be a badass hard rock frontwoman" An indie pop singer-songwriter" A cathartic indie folk artist in the vein of her fellow Boygenius musicians" Still, the flipside is that she does all of these things really well, so it’s somewhat difficult to fault her for overextending her reach. Considering her debut album was slightly lackluster and boring, it’s goddamn astonishing that she’s made so much growth in such a short time. Historian is a lovely piece of work that unapologetically tells the world that Lucy Dacus is ready to be with the recent lineup of indie greats.



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user ratings (97)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
neekafat CONTRIBUTOR (3.5)
"I'm just as good as anybody / I'm just as bad as anybody"...



Comments:Add a Comment 
DivergentThinking
December 11th 2018


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yes, I'm serious about that rating. Yes, I realize I've gushed quite a bit too. :]

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
December 11th 2018


16462 Comments


Could never get into this album, but good review.

And wait, weren't you a contributor Soccer?

Digging: Cross Record - Cross Record

DivergentThinking
December 11th 2018


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I asked to be taken off contributor so I could leave my account for a while and focus on my Navy stuff. It wasn't due to being banned or anything, so I'm still in good standing with the other contribs and staff (I'm even still on the Facebook page for the contribs) :] I have been thinking about reapplying again for contrib, but I only want to do it if I'm completely sure about it... I don't want to keep jerking their chain if I'm just going to ask to be taken off again, you know?

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
December 11th 2018


16462 Comments


Yeah man, totally understandable, and good on you for being honest about it with them. Where the hell in the world are you now btw? (lol) If you ever dock in Osaka give me a shoutout, we'll get beers.

DivergentThinking
December 11th 2018


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I definitely won't be in Japan anytime for my sea duty. But I am thinking of getting stationed in Osaka for my shore duty... I've always want to go to Japan, especially because of the music and gaming culture over there

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
December 11th 2018


16462 Comments


Oh dude yeah, great local music scene and gaming well, it's utter madness, but I guess you know that already haha.

DivergentThinking
December 11th 2018


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

As far as the music I compose on the piano, Japanese classical/soundtrack music is the stuff that influences me the absolute most. Anything that has that really spiritual, heavenly vibe to it (especially with the soul/jazz chords in there) in that style really resonates with me. That's why I'm such a huge fan of people like Joe Hisaishi

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
December 11th 2018


16462 Comments


Joe Hisaishi is a genius. I don't know if you know him but Yasunori Mitsuda held a couple of shows for Creid (his Xenogears soundtrack) and I just totally missed it. It was a couple of months ago or so in Tokyo. There was a good quality video around of the whole thing and holy shit man.

DivergentThinking
December 11th 2018


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hellyeah, Mitsuda rules too. Also, Yoko Kanno of The Seatbelts makes amazing soundtracks. The work she's done for Escaflowne is ridiculously good

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
December 11th 2018


16462 Comments


Fuck yes my man, Escaflowne is one of my all time favorite soundtracks. Yoko Kanno is God.

Dylan620
December 11th 2018


4975 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fantastic review. Gets to the crux of a lot of what makes this album great.

Snake.
December 11th 2018


21778 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

immmmmmmmmmm weak



lookin’ at u

WatchItExplode
December 11th 2018


7023 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

So I don't quite get it but Lucy is honestly the only one of the sad girls that I can really get in to. Might have to do with the facts that my introduction was seen her live with her full band who get after it a bit

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
December 12th 2018


16604 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is the 63rd best album of the year I've heard so far

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
December 12th 2018


826 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

good review



had to raise my rating of this one a little while back. it really grew into something special the more i listened.

DivergentThinking
December 12th 2018


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks :]

TheFantasticDangler
December 14th 2018


2040 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This will be top 10-15 for me for sure. I don't know how people can be assed to rank things past 50, hell even past 30. Just a crapshoot that probably changes depending on what mood you're in.

DivergentThinking
December 14th 2018


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, this will probably make my top 5 now, honestly. I'm starting to listen to Lucy more than Phoebe or Julien these days tbh, even though I do enjoy Stranger in the Alps more than this

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
December 14th 2018


16604 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

howwwwww... love you tho soccerriot, glad you decided to review this and give your take (:

DivergentThinking
December 14th 2018


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lol, as I said, I do enjoy Stranger in the Alps more. That album is a solid 5/5 for me, actually... one of the very few albums I could give a 5 in the last few years. Regardless, I was still a huge fan of this... I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that this album doesn't dwell nearly as much on the slow, droning sadcore stuff despite taking some obvious lyrical/musical inspirations from that sound. Those lively and even aggressive moments strengthen the album so much for me, and the soft sections are intertwined very well with them imo



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