In 2018, Lucy Dacus kicked off her album Historian with a startling admission: “The first time I tasted somebody else’s spit, I had a coughing fit.” That line was followed by six minutes of eviscerating lyrics and guitar riffs, making for a towering indie-rock moment right up there with the best of Paul Westerberg and Liz Phair — and “Night Shift” was just the first song on the album.
Dacus continues to master the art of first lines on her excellent third album, Home Video, whether it’s “In the summer of ’07/I was sure I’d go to heaven” (“VBS”) or “When I asked you to coffee/Could you tell I don’t drink it?” (“Partner in Crime”). She delivers these words in her own terms, executing each one with dense, buttery vocals that slide right up next to her fervorous guitar noise. At a time when many of her twentysomething indie peers have veered into folk or Americana, Dacus chooses not to follow these trends, content to stay in the lonely lane of rock, cranking up the distortion as tumbleweeds blow by.
Home Video is her greatest work yet — a cohesive and poignant collection of tales from her teenage years in Richmond, Virginia. These stories are woven like a quilt, with several dark patches reminiscent of her hero Bruce Springsteen’s The River. “Being back here makes me hot in the face/Hot blood in my pulsing veins,” she sings on the opener, “Hot and Heavy,” as a nostalgic, palpable rush hits her: “Heavy memories weighing on my brain/Hot and heavy in the basement of your parents’ place.”
Dacus navigates through early romances, contemplates religion, and fiercely protects her friends — all with wide-eyed maturity and small-town realness. Although these are past recollections, she places them into the present, like retrieving moments from a diary and bravely re-enacting them in front of a crowd. It’s the kind of sharp storytelling songwriters spend a lifetime trying to accomplish, and yet Dacus — who is also a member of the acclaimed supergroup Boygenius, alongside Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker — is doing it at just 26 years old.
On the devastating ballad “Thumbs,” Dacus breaks down a day in college, when she accompanied a friend to see their estranged father. She slowly unravels the encounter (“He ordered rum and coke/I can’t drink either anymore”) and begins to fantasize about murdering him. She takes it down a notch on “Christine,” but maintains a passionate stance on friendship — especially when her friend’s settling for something less: “But if you get married, I’d object/Throw my shoe at the altar and lose your respect,” she admits. “I’d rather lose my dignity/Than lose you to somebody who won’t make you happy.”
Dacus uses fruit as a motif several times on the record, presumably to symbolize temptation. She eats cherries on a bridge in “Partner In Crime,” using Auto-Tune to process lying about her age to an older boy. She compares secrets to peach pits on “VBS,” the album’s highlight, where she goes to bible camp and falls for someone who snorts nutmeg in their bunk bed and blasts Slayer. In all of these moments, she makes it known that while these experiences are hers, they could easily belong to any of us. We all come from somewhere.
Dacus appeared on both of her Boygenius bandmates’ recent albums — joining Bridgers for “Graceland Too” and Baker’s for “Favor” — and here the three singer-songwriters complete the trilogy on the tender “Please Stay.” Their harmonies lean into the acoustic guitar as Dacus describes a partner’s unkempt home, with clothes in the dryer and dirty dishes in the sink. “Please don’t make me see these things,” she pleads, not wanting an illusion to be broken.
Home Video culminates with the nearly eight-minute “Triple Dog Dare,” in which she untangles queer love wrought with innocence and longing. It concludes an album that feels like a memoir of her early life, where each track resembles a delicate chapter. We’re lucky to get to live in her back pages.