Lucy Dacus’ new album, Home Video, invites listeners into her life with songs full of stories from her past. Musically speaking, for her third full album, she sings with the experience of someone already with two wonderful albums under her belt, but this time also proffering a greater sense of introspection.
The title of this album makes me think of how some people back in the day kept their memories in the form of VHS tapes, watching them over and over to relive significant moments. While nostalgia may propel a lot of repeat viewings, there might be feelings of regret, wistfulness…whatever. The viewer’s current state and baggage cannot be separated from the act of reliving the past. And after a while, those videotapes would oftentimes degrade and get fuzzy, becoming unwatchable.
Dacus examines themes of her religious upbringing, budding sexuality, friendship, and self-identity from a personal perspective and infuses them throughout the album. For this collection of eleven songs, she dug into her diaries that she started keeping at an early age. And though these stories are uniquely hers and beautifully sung in her voice, I could not help but relate to many of her situations causing me to recall my own awkward teenage and young adult years (and also making me wish in earnest I had chronicled my thoughts during those times). If I had had the stellar Home Video as a companion during those bumpy times, maybe I might not have felt so alone with my own struggles.
On the song “Christine,” Dacus talks about a friend who has a crummy boyfriend, and how if the friend were to marry him “…I’d object / Throw my shoe at the altar and lose your respect / I’d rather lose my dignity / Than lose you to somebody who won’t make you happy.” I’ve lost a few good friendships because of a friend pairing with someone less than ideal, and sometimes wonder if I should have said something early on.
The strongest song on the album is the climactic “Thumbs,” which Dacus has been performing as part of her live set for a while and has become a fan favorite. I heard her sing the song when she ended her set with it at Webster Hall in December 2019, and was totally knocked out by the lyrics. She describes accompanying a friend to a meeting with an estranged parent, and all the thoughts running through her mind during the meeting, including wanting to press her thumbs on her friend’s father’s eyeballs until they burst. The visual is certainly graphic, but effectively conveys her sense of loyalty and desire to protect that friend at all costs, even to the point of (symbolic) bodily harm.
Perhaps the most surprising track on Home Video is “Partner in Crime,” in which Dacus uncharacteristically employs auto-tune. In the song, she is unsure if her relationship with this person is deeper than just a friendship, or whether it is veering into romantic territory. She mentions drinking coffee and misrepresenting her age perhaps to appear more sophisticated. While the use of auto-tune initially caught me off guard, as I listen to the song more and more, it works well as the narrator is putting on a facade to mask her true self, of which we all are guilty at times.
There’s an old saying that goes something like, “You can never go home again.” I take it to mean that with hindsight at our disposal, we cannot return to the same state as when we went through something initially. That with time, subsequent experiences, and knowledge, it all shapes how we view something from the past. And with each repeat listening of Home Video, I’ve been replaying my own parallel memories of days gone by, revisiting some unresolved feelings, and contemplating some what ifs. Dacus’ strength lies in her ability to deftly draw in listeners with wry, relatable lyrics and vividly detailed storytelling, but in a completely natural and gorgeous way.
Home Video was released on June 25, 2021 on Matador Records.