James Ross Kiefer, A&E Editor
Lucy Dacus is 21 year-old from Richmond, Virginia. Unlike most 21 year-old’s, last year she was being courted by about 20 different record labels to release her debut album “No Burden.” Ranging from straight up indie rock, to country tinged ballads and personal moments, this album pairs well written songs with Dacus’s witty lyricism.
Lucy released “No Burden” in February of 2016 on EggHunt Records, and got a re-release back in September when the band signed to Matador Records. Originally starting as a school project with guitarist Jacob Blizard, Lucy realized the potential of the album and started being scouted by some major labels after a show. This led to a six month deliberation process on finding the right outlet for the band.
The album starts with off with a true single. “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” talks about being overlooked and not feeling attractive. The gnarly guitar tone in the opening sets up the rest of the song for a dancey beat. Dacus softly croons out lyrics like “I got a too short skirt, maybe I can be the cute one, Is there room in the band? I don’t need to be the front man, if not, then I’ll be the biggest fan”.
“Troublemaker Dopplegänger” begins with slow, almost anthemic, drums. A twangy syncopated guitar lick comes in and Lucy starts to sing. “Green Eyes, Red Face” is one of the more slow paced songs on the album. The chorus is really beautiful moment, and the lyrics are addressing some type of unrequited or hidden lust. “And I see the seat next to yours is unoccupied and I was wondering if you’d let me come and sit by your side, I’ve got plenty of affection, I’d be glad to show you some time”, it really matches up well with the anxious tempo of the song.
The next track, “Strange Torpedo,” totally feels like it could have been a single on its own. The song has a very serious tone to it, the lyrics in the bridge section go “I thought you’d hit rock bottom, but I’m starting to think that it doesn’t exist, because you’ve been falling for so long, and you haven’t hit anything solid yet”. This is contrasted by some jangly lead guitar parts that interjects themselves between words.
“Dream State” is perhaps the most sonically unique track on the album. It starts off slowly with just Lucy strumming chords and singing. The rest of the band joins in softly after the first chorus. This slowly builds, increasing in volume and intensity. “Without you I am surely the last of our kind, Without you I am surely the last of my kind” is sung repeatedly, almost like a plea for help. The synthesizer freaking out in the background is also pretty sweet.
The only acoustic song on the album, “Trust” is a tender reflection of self image and relationships. Lyrically, it’s the most explorative part of the album, and Lucy does an amazing job of telling a narrative that strains you emotionally, but gives a feeling of closure. “Map On A Wall” is almost a direct contradiction to this. It’s the longest song on the album, nearly eight minutes, and is the most complicated in terms of composition. With three defined sections, the first soft and pensive, the second loud and raucous and the third a return to calm, this song feels like a genuine journey. It’s both powerful and captivating, and worth listening to a couple of times.
“Direct Address” is a confrontational song about a past relationship. This is Lucy at her most assertive, and the lyrics mirror this well. “You know it’s unfair that I am here and you are there, I feel short in the exchange, I show you mine you walk away. I’m wearing mine out on my sleeve, you’re wearing yours where I can’t see, but I’ll remember your face for years to come and wonder what you thought about when you got home”. This track just oozes aggression.
The last track on the album is a return to simple aesthetic of “Trust”. “…Familiar Place” features just Lucy singing, the lyrics are contemplative and brooding. The only other instruments are a soft pounding drum, very low in the mix, and a guitar doing a tremolo. At the very end of the song there is a reprise of “Without you I am surely the last of our kind.” It is a truly remarkable way to end the album.
“No Burden” is an expressive narrative off an album that captures both the heart and the mind. There are moments of great beauty, anger and disenfranchisement. It is a work of love and of growth, and deserves multiple revisits.