By Rosie Accola
Lucy Dacus debut album, No Burden, is full of sprawling, honest, tracks that are perfect for long hot summer days. Her confessional style of songwriting combined with her ability to weave a lyrical narrative through a gritty southern blues bass-line results in a record that is best blared speeding down the highway as the sun sets at 9 P.M. It’s a record for travelers, dreamers or loners— anyone who has ever felt a bit out of place while simultaneously in love with the world around them.
The record opens with “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore.” It’s the sort of song that begs to accompany the opening credits of a classic teen film. The track’s urgent guitar riff coupled with lyrics like “I heard my friends saying things they don’t mean out loud” calls to mind the emotional climate of teenage hood. It’s a track that explores the ease and terror of melding one’s identity, and the frustration that comes along with attempting to negotiate one’s own sense of personhood. During the bridge Dacus laments, “Try not laugh, I know it will be hard” the entire record is filled with these tiny flashes of honesty, so much so that Dacus’ sense of lyricism feels like confessional poetry.
“Green Eyes Red Face” is more like a shy, flirtatious smile. Dacus’ voice ebbs and flows effortlessly as she promises, “I’ve got plenty of affection” to a baseline that’s just the slightest bit sexy. It’s the antithesis of trap or E.D.M bangers, a flirty Tinder message for the shy among us.
Throughout No Burden there are tracks that seem to take their rightful place amongst femme singer songwriters who can shred. “Strange Torpedo” is slightly reminiscent of “Exile in Guyville” era Liz Phair with frantic, tight guitar riffs. It’s a track that best exemplifies Dacus’ precise control of her voice, she lets the chorus meander without getting out of breath, she aches without feeling compelled to wail outright. Yet, she doesn’t sacrifice any lyrical vulnerability the ache in these tracks is quiet and persistent, like a last minute worry that keeps you up at night. In “Dream State” she croons, “Without you / I am surely / The last of my kind” and it becomes a sort of mantra seamlessly merging into the next track, “Trust,” which serves as a meditation on the creative process.
“Trust” focuses on the feelings of inadequacy that often stem from attempting to exist creatively: how one can nervously retain criticism, desires to start anew, and the cleansing feeling of finally letting go.
Yet, the emotional opus of the record exists in “Map on a Wall,” a seven-minute long meditation on vulnerability beneath a gentle and tremendous drum beat. Dacus’ voice wavers as she pleads, “Oh please/ don’t make fun of me/ with my crooked smile/ and my pigeon feet.” Around the 2:29 mark, the track flows into another musical movement as the guitar riff builds accompanied by frantic quick, cymbals. The drums move quicker and quicker as Dacus proclaims, “But here we are / and something about it doesn’t feel like an accident” and lets her voice revel in its’ own power. It’s a declaration, a musical manifesto of sorts, a nod to all the other girls with knobby knees who are unsure of their own curiosities.
It’s a record that forces emotional vulnerability to confront the rock and roll mythos, forcing both listener and artist to contemplate the performative artifice of rock and roll and reconcile with their own knobby knees and golden hearts.