Happy release day to Lucy Dacus’ “Thumbs,” a song so highly anticipated it has its own fan-run Twitter account. Dacus began performing it in 2018, but politely asked her audiences not to record the unreleased track. Surprisingly, this worked, and the legend of the ballad so perfectly devastating it couldn’t be contained in an Instagram story or a YouTube clip kept growing. With a new album coming up on the horizon, she recently gifted 100 random fans VHS tapes of the single — the golden ticket of indie rock in 2021.
Dacus downplays the instruments on the recorded version of “Thumbs.” You won’t hear guitar, drums, or anything that would take away from the lyrical gut-punch she delivers so delicately. Instead, she sings behind blankets of synths and a Mellotron, slowly unraveling a memory from college, when she took a friend to a bar to see their estranged father.
Dacus drops emotional bombs that are relatable to anyone with a lousy dad, raising the intensity with each image, from birthday checks sent in the mail to leaving the restaurant in the wrong direction so you aren’t followed. Then she takes her thoughts a step further: “I would kill him/If you let me,” she tells her friend. “I would kill him/Quick and easy.” In the second verse, she fantasizes about murdering this bad guy while thinking about a trait he shares with his daughter. “I love your eyes/And he has ‘em/Or you have his/’Cause he was first,” she explains. “I imagine my thumbs on the irises/Pressing in until they burst.”
Each line in “Thumbs” is executed so evocatively that the song brought out a visceral reaction in Dacus, who wrote it in 15 minutes during a car ride to dinner. “Like most songs I write, I wasn’t expecting it,” she said. “It made me feel weird, almost sick.” It’s Dacus’ first release this year, a brilliant way to preview her next move.
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