In my first listen to Home Video, I focused on the words. The second time around, the sound. The third time, everything at once. Every time, I found something new that I loved about it. Much like its namesake, Lucy Dacus third offering revisits the past through the distance prism of the present, drawing from memories with the same fuzzy obscured milieu of a documentary shot on VHS tape.
Playing like an abstract self-portrait, Lucy Dacus paints her experiences with flourishes of raw honesty, elegant storytelling and compassion. ‘Hot & Heavy’ powerfully opens Home Video with the expressionistic lyricism and wide-open production that allows it to be heard. Dacus softly sings, “Being back here makes me hot in the face. Hot blood in my pulsing veins. Heavy memories weighing on my brain. Hot and heavy in the basement of your parent’s place.” setting the thematic core of Home Video. Beginning the album turn of phrase wrapped in a melancholic sound that runs throughout.
Home Video is an album that allows the words to occupy the foreground while the dynamics dominate the background. Both work in tandem, pushing and pulling proceeding when called upon. The propellant ‘First Time’ rattles with driving indie-rock contrasted by Dacus’ hazy vocals. While the softly picked ambience of ‘Cartwheel’ allows the record’s thematic thread of the past and future expectations to be laid bare. ‘Brando’ melds both approaches as the song builds from line stripped back lines like “All I need for you to admit. Is that you never knew me like you thought you did” that give way to a musically lush widescreen sound.
However, ‘Thumbs’ towers above all else. The zenith of Home Video and Lucy Dacus work to date, the music is atmospherically tense and the words strikingly tense. Written about a deadbeat father of her partner, the song melds reality with fantasy. Ducas recalls the encounter with documentarian observations, “So we meet him at a bar. You were holding my hand hard. He ordered rum and coke. I can’t drink either anymore”. Before twisting seamlessly into fantasy, “I lovе your eyes. And he has thеm, or you have his. ‘Cause he was first. I imagine my thumbs on the irises. Pressing in until they burst”. Unflinching in its honesty and dreamlike in its delivery, ‘Thumbs’ lasts long after listening.
And so it goes, Home Video examines how we perceive the past in the present. Throughout, Lucy Dacus looks back on moments, places and imagery from this perspective and tells us each story with unshakeable sincerity. Wrapped in a subtle production that gives each song room to be heard, Home Video is a towering work that lays everything bare. Allowing Dacus to move into the future as a songwriter with power over her art.