There’s something about having your life put on pause that makes you reflective and nostalgic, even for your most embarrassing moments. Lucy Dacus had already begun looking back on her childhood before the pandemic hit, but her third album ‘Home Video’ arrives at a moment when we’ve all been doing the same.
The singer-songwriter was inspired by returning to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia after a lengthy time on tour, and by poring over the diaries she filled between the ages of seven and 17. The songs that emerged either encapsulate the experiences written down in those journals or see her analyse them as a grown-up able to see things for what they were.
On softly glittering opener ‘Hot & Heavy’, she sings of seeing old faces around her hometown. “’You used to be so sweet’,” they tell her. “’Now you’re a firecracker on a crowded street.’” The acoustic shuffle of ‘Going Going Gone’, which features Dacus’ boygenius bandmates Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, plants us in the middle of an awkward teenage romance: “Sweaty palms, averted eyes / Wasn’t sure if he and I were going out.”
‘Home Video’ is full of the Matador artist’s typical subtle humour and gorgeously evocative poetry. The lurching, twanging ‘VBS’ takes us into Vacation Bible School, the Christian camps that the musician spent her youth at, and introduces us to her first boyfriend, a stoner who listens to Slayer while he sleeps and writes laughably bad poetry. “Sedentary secrets / Like peach pits in your gut,” she sings of him. “Locked away in jam jars / In the cellar of your heart.” It’s the kind of line that stops you in your tracks.
The subject might transport us to Dacus’ past, but musically she move us forward into a new chapter in her musicality. In a bid to make the record prettier, warmer and sound more nostalgic than her previous two, she brings in acoustic guitars and, for the first time, piano. The most interesting moments, though, come when she takes risks. ‘Partner In Crime’ is unexpectedly slathered in AutoTune, its vocal manipulation reflecting the inauthenticity in the lyrics, which find younger Dacus lying about her age to older guys.
Just like memories of long ago, there are moments that pass by that don’t stand out. ‘Please Stay’ is wistful and pretty, but largely forgettable, and the surging indie-rock of ‘First Time’ doesn’t quite hold up against the rest of the record. But for the most part, Dacus proves that looking back at your past might make you cringe, but there is beauty and value in those faltering, gawky days.
Release date: June 25