On the first line of her new album Historian, Lucy Dacus sings: "The first time I tasted somebody else's spit, I had a coughing fit."
At once jarring and funny, but delivered with a touch of sadness, the line's abrasiveness pulls listeners immediately into what becomes the beautiful Night Shift, a song about leaving a toxic relationship. It's packed with such softly devastating moments, particularly as Dacus reserves her right to anger when her ex invites her for coffee: "What was the plan, absolve your guilt and shake hands?"
Historian is so overflowing with such powerful turns of phrases, it's a wonder Dacus hasn't lived a thousand lives. The prematurely talented 22-year-old's second album emulates the kind of artistic evolution found on Angel Olsen's My Woman – both are tightly focused folk/rock records that step up each artist's game, using restraint as a secret weapon. Like Olsen, Dacus dexterously builds tension with her lyrical and structural genius, working her way to catharsis on each of the record's 10 tracks.
With the support of a full backing band, Historian grants Dacus' songs the muscle they deserve. Timefighter takes a slow-burning blues structure and pushes it towards a grunge-rock climax, whereas Next of Kin's noisy, crunchy guitars give weight to Dacus's anti-epiphany; "I am at peace with my death/I can go back to bed."
The closing track, Historians, is a stunning look at memory and coming of age, bearing tonal similarities to the film Lady Bird, which uses a rolling pace and grainy cinematography to capture the foggy, ephemeral nature of adolescence. As hazy strings bring her album to a close, Dacus ruminates on love and change: "If past you were to meet future me/would you be holding me here and now?" The song fades like a sunset; Dacus has processed her past and embraces a new horizon.
Lucy Dacus, Historian
A stunning post-coming-of-age album driven by lyrical wit