When I began to shift my attention to Lucy Dacus, it happened passively. Initially I knew her simply as the third leg of the supergroup-trio boygenius, whose other two members, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, had captured my awareness first.
Due to the brief runtime of their lone, self-titled album boygenius (2018), I failed to notice when it ended and the streaming algorithm kicked in. From there, I was largely presented with the group’s solo discography, and my journey down the Lucy Dacus rabbit hole unknowingly began.
As would become a common occurrence when listening to Lucy Dacus, her music snuck up on me. For example, I’m still not sure if I really heard Strange Torpedo until it’d been through my ears a few times, but it became such an earworm that eventually I had to add it to a playlist so I could hear it regularly.
Eventually I toggled onto her streaming profile and played her two solo albums, No Burden (2016) and Historian (2018), back to back while I pivoted my focus toward other subjects. When I finished both albums I couldn’t remember many specifics from either record, but it left me with a generally pleasant disposition, and I inserted the same rotation into my ears again the next day.
This time with a little bit of familiarity under my belt, I heard the words a bit better, and even recognized the tune to a few songs. For the second day in a row it had worked well as background music, and the only change I intended to make for the following one was to sort and listen by “Popularity”.
Receiving the same songs in an unfamiliar order proved crucial in my process of familiarization, and it was here that my appreciation for Lucy’s music began to deepen meaningfully.
What had finally occurred to me from this daily circuit was that my favorite songs of hers were all journeys. Lucy experiments with energy in her music, shrinking what could be a standalone number into a 30 second hunk within the arrangement of a larger song. She then uses this as flexibility to speed up and slow down at a moment’s notice, meaning that her sound is felt as much as it’s heard. The job of the audience, then, is to simply hold on and relish the ride.
Night Shift is a perfect encapsulation of how Lucy excels as an artist. At almost precisely the midpoint of the song it transitions into a new song, and yet the two pieces fit together to form an epic. My advice is to listen to this song, and then listen to it again, and then listen to it again, and then listen to it again. Allow it to wash over the brain and embrace the emotion it emits.
Yours And Mine demonstrates Lucy’s skill at crafting a delicate launch to a song. Here she begins with a minute-long overture before the song itself kicks in.
Similarly, Direct Address begins with back to back unique 30 second verses, never to be heard from again.
Pillar Of Truth is the same song for its whole 7:14, but it’s a masterclass in conducting musical momentum.
On the topic of duration, No Burden features nine songs in 35 minutes, and Historian consists of ten songs over 47 minutes. Broken down further, No Burden has only one song longer than 4:30, and Historian has five. It’s in her lengthiest songs where Lucy shines the brightest, and both the figurative and literal growth from her first album to her second makes thinking about her upcoming third all the more exciting.
As Lucy has grown increasingly comfortable allowing her songs enough space to breathe, the scenery within them can change in unprecedented ways. Utilizing a shift in spirit in the middle of a song can convey an incredible amount of passion, and in order to sing a tune of Lucy’s properly, it’s just as important to know how to sing the song’s emotion as it is its words.
As a singular entry point, my recommendation is to put in a pair of earbuds and begin with the previously highlighted Night Shift. From there, listening through the rest of Historian while, say, out on a walk is a perfect recipe for her music’s infusion process.
I feel compelled to reiterate that even after all this thinking done in her direction, Lucy Dacus remains a magic trick to me. I don’t quite know how she does it, but I’m under her spell and I’m not puttin’ up a fight.
She comes to town in a week, but I couldn’t delay hollerin’ about her talent for that long. I continue to listen on repeat, and if I can inch even one person closer to fandom, this’ll have been a worthwhile enterprise.