Only about 60 people globally are said to have hyperthymesia, a condition where memory retention is all but perfect. While it’s unlikely that Lucy Dacus is among these ranks, Home Video, her third album, focuses on the past with remarkable precision. As she sings, she sounds less like she’s recalling and more like she’s collecting her thoughts about the moments in real time, no matter how mundane they might seem.
Call it nostalgia, but Dacus avoids splitting things between the halcyon past and the unhappy present. Hearts are broken, religious fundamentalism is force-fed, and parents put burdens on their children disguised as love. It’s likely she’s wrestled with the past before, but on the charging “First Time,” she’s through resisting: “I can’t undo what I’ve done; I wouldn’t want to.”
Sometimes, Dacus is singing about herself, sometimes, about others, and sometimes, it’s a little blurrier. Opener “Hot & Heavy” is a heap of heartland as she calls someone, once sweet, “A firecracker on a crowded street.” The song originated as being about an old friend, but Dacus realized it was about her own evolution from teenagehood to mid-twenties-hood. It doesn’t tap into the same emotional well as Sharon van Etten’s similar “Seventeen” does, but Dacus knows how to use progression for maximum payoff, from the hushed beginning to the rollicking guitar solo outro.
Her understanding of construction also applies to sequencing. “Night Shift,” an anthem about post-breakup logistics from 2018’s Historian, has arguably become her most-well-known song, and there are plenty of tracks here designed for cranking up. But you’ll also find softer acoustic ballads, like the wistful “Going Going Gone,” where Dacus sounds like Joni Mitchell if she never discovered cigarettes. The most impactful track is the one with the least going-on, musically, that is. “Thumbs” recounts a moment spent with a friend and their estranged father. With only depressed synth chords for accompaniment, Dacus forces you to confront the discomfort like you’re at the bar with them, and still finds a way to incorporate a powerful refrain: “I would kill him if you let me.”
Perhaps appropriate for someone with as much awareness as Dacus, Home Video can occasionally feel too self-conscious for its own good. Drums regularly enter midway through, and the studio banter ending of “Going Going Gone”, while charming enough, doesn’t add a whole lot. Sometimes, Dacus’ recollections are longing for streamlining, or at least a more detailed focus. Closer “Triple Dog Dare” is a story of young, forbidden love that builds to a fiery ending. But more time could be spent on how Dacus was banned from seeing her partner after their mom read her palms than how they were dancing in a convenience store after-hours.
Still, her regard for the past and how it’s shaped her and will continue to do so makes Dacus a rightfully prominent figure in the indie folk scene, and you can see why based on both her solo efforts and work with boygenius cohorts Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, who provide backing vocals on two tracks. As the title suggests, you can’t go home again, but you can at least watch some replays.
Order Home Video by Lucy Dacus HERE