Payoff can really make or break a song, so setting the right expectations are important. On her latest record, songstress Lucy Dacus breaks out of her indie trappings to offer up an album that can shift dynamics in an instant. As many of her songs start sparsely to open into a rock or instrumental wonderland, a sense of repetition does enter in as well. Though Dacus doesn’t always match expectations or tighten things up, she never fails to create moments worth hearing.
There’s such a richly detailed sense of lyricism on Historian that would be considered too much information in another artist’s hands but perfectly evocative in Dacus’s. This certainly helps keep the bland first half of “Night Shift” captivating, as it’s blistering second half goes powerfully ballistic. Dacus harnesses this sway of energy much more dynamically on “Addictions” as she contrasts controlled living with the demons that drive us. Her lyrics subtly show both sides of a harsh breakup, as a couple struggle to escape their mutual sense of codependency.
Though “The Shell” finds Dacus dissecting her own views on the drawbacks of making music, she still seems drawn to its intricacies. Unfortunately, despite the clever insight into her inner turmoil, the song doesn’t pack quite the same punch in its melodies. “Nonbeliever” may feel overtly cheesy as it starts, but as its drums kick in the song hits a more genuinely deep emotional note. While her string arrangements struggle to find footing in the song’s opening, they really elevate the rock notes to make something fleshed-out and impactful.
By the time you reach “Yours and Mine” the constantly reserved starts to each song of the record has grown a little tiring admittedly. This is sadly doubly true here, but once Dacus reaches the song’s first drop her melodies and drums play off each other to make a constantly moving song. The immediately palpable regret and sorrow of “Body To Flame” shows a lot of self-awareness in Dacus, and the swirling strings really make it all the more heavy. She takes this emotion all the further as the guitars shriek open however, showing her most triumphant writing in something more compact and digestible.
“Timefighter” shifts to a completely different sonic plane, as Dacus goes all out for a blues-rock heavy-hitter. While the song starts and peaks with a righteous and shocking energy, the blues crawls that fill the rest are forgettable. There’s much more of a bouncy life to “Next Of Kin” as Dacus injects a surprising amount of pep into a song about death. The balance of happiness and chaos creates a great tension in the song, giving even the most straightforward verse a constantly evolving energy.
“Pillar Of Truth” falls into the album’s biggest trap of offering so much, far too late into a song. Though its finale is one of the album’s most explosive and exciting moments that really packs an emotional punch, you’ll have to be extremely patient to get all the way there. “Historian” swirls with enigmatic bass and a lush string score that shows Dacus can even pull out some cinematic folk when she needs to. This said, the song feels quite apart from the record, resulting in a good finale that is a little out of place.
Words by Owen Maxwell