“The past doesn’t change. Even if a memory is of a time I didn’t feel safe, there’s safety in looking at it, in its stability.” – Lucy Dacus
Lucy Dacus announces her third album, Home Video, out June 25th on Matador / Remote Control Records, and releases lead single/video, ‘Hot & Heavy’, which she’ll perform tonight on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The follow-up to 2018’s Historian and her 2016 debut No Burden, Home Video was built on Dacus’ interrogation of her coming-of-age years in Richmond, Virginia. Many of the songs start the way a memoir might, and all of them have the compassion, humour, and honesty of the best autobiographical writing. These songs capture that specific moment in time growing up where emotions and relationships start becoming more complex. They capture the joys, the excitement, the confusion, and even the heartbreak of going through the process of discovering who you are and where people fit in your life and where you fit in theirs. Most importantly and mysteriously, this album displays Dacus’ ability to use the personal as portal into the universal.
While there’s a nostalgic tint to much of Dacus’ work, the obliquely told stories in past songs are depicted here with greater specificity. This was first presented in last month’s devastating single ‘Thumbs’, a fan favourite and elegant fantasy about the brutal murder of a close friend’s no-good father. In new single ‘Hot & Heavy’, Dacus sings powerfully about blushing and diffidence. It’s the album’s opening track and it immediately sets the stage for Dacus’ feelings about rerooting in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, following sudden acclaim. It created funhouse distortions of herself – people she didn’t know were looking at her like they knew her better than she knew herself.
“I thought I was writing ‘Hot & Heavy’ about an old friend, but I realised along the way that it was just about me outgrowing past versions of myself,” explains Dacus. “So much of life is submitting to change and saying goodbye even if you don’t want to. Now whenever I go to places that used to be significant to me, it feels like trespassing the past. I know that the teen version of me wouldn’t approve of me now, and that’s embarrassing and a little bit heartbreaking, even if I know intellectually that I like my life and who I am.”
The accompanying, self-directed video was shot in the historic Byrd Theatre in Richmond where Dacus often saw movies during her adolescent years.
“I knew I wanted to include some of the home video footage that my dad took of me while I was growing up. I wanted to visualise the moment when you first reflect on your childhood, which I think can also be the moment that childhood is over. For me, I feel like there was a hard switch when I started releasing music, when my identity went from being a personal project to something publicly observed and reflected. I asked my family (shoutout to my grandma) and some of my closest friends to be extras because they’re the people that knew me before that switch. I may have dropped out of film school, but I still love making movies and had a really fun time directing this one.”
In August 2019, after relentless touring then a month of silence, Dacus returned to Trace Horse Studio in Nashville with her loyal friends and collaborators Jacob Blizard, Collin Pastore, and Jake Finch to record Home Video. Dacus’ boygenius bandmates, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, contribute vocals on two songs. The resulting record – full of arrhythmic heartbeat percussion and backgrounds of water-warped pipe organ – was mixed by Shawn Everett and mastered by Bob Ludwig. Listeners may notice that the melodies here are lower and more contained than Dacus’ previous works, at times feeling as intimate as a whisper. The vulnerability of these songs, so often about the intense places where different sorts of love meet and warp, required this approach.
Home Video is a gorgeous example of the transformative power of vulnerability. Dacus’ voice, both audible and on the page, has a healer’s power to soothe and ground and reckon. This album not only propels Dacus forward as a songwriter, but also props her up as one of the most effective storytellers of her generation.