Staff Pick: Lucy Dacus explores the tenuousness of human connection
The singer and songwriter visits the Newport for a can’t-miss concert tonight
Released in June amid social distancing and mask regulations that have fueled an ongoing sense of isolation, Lucy Dacus’ remarkable third full-length, Home Video (Matador), finds the singer and songwriter dwelling on a host of past relationships. Throughout, the songs explore ties both romantic and platonic, detailing the ways human beings connect and drift apart, and most importantly how these moments gradually shape the people we become.
On her previous record, Historian, from 2018, Dacus pondered questions of mental health, death and faith, pairing these big questions with grandly majestic arrangements. For Home Video, the musician pares things back, the intimate focus bleeding into everything from the simpler arrangements to Dacus’ words, which are sharper and more incisive, often delivered in a conversational tone that allows each syllable to cut direct to the bone. “You called me cerebral/I didn’t know what you meant,” Dacus sings on the shimmering “Brando.” “But now I do/Would it have killed you to call me pretty instead?”
Elsewhere, Dacus reflects on a brief bible school dalliance (“VBS”) and the seeming impossibility of queer love existing within a religious home (“Triple Dog Dare”). She also accompanies a friend forced into drinks with her abusive dad (the bruised, bruising “Thumbs”), begs a lover not to leave ("Please Stay") and takes a lilting walk through her adolescent romances (“Going, Going, Gone”).
According to an interview with the New York Times, this more inward turn was purposeful, with Dacus drawing lyrical inspiration from the journals that she started keeping at age 7. “It was intentional that I talk plainly on this album about things that actually happened because I hadn’t done that yet,” she said of the approach, which is calcified in lines like, “My heart’s on my sleeve, it’s embarrassing.”
The resulting songs are dark, sad and funny, often in the same breath, such as the moment in “Christine” when Dacus, in the midst of explaining to a friend why her beau is bad for her, offers up her own candid version of a wedding toast. “If you get married, I'd object,” she sings. “Throw my shoe at the altar and lose your respect.”
Home Video’s impact is further weighted from landing amid a pandemic, Dacus exploring a range of tenuous human ties that somehow feel even more fraught now. Just this week, in fact, Dacus had to postpone a couple of shows when a member of the touring party tested positive for COVID-19. The tour resumed Monday in Chicago and Dacus is set to visit the Newport today (Tuesday, Oct. 12). Don’t miss it.