Lucy Dacus’ sophomore album, “Historian,” comes almost exactly two years after her 2016 debut but feels like a body of work years in the making.
In the album opener, “Night Shift,” Dacus sings about getting over a past relationship. It starts out with hushed singing and the steady strumming of an electric guitar, building to a roar of screamed lyrics and distorted guitar by the end.
“You got a 9 to 5, so I’ll take the night shift/And I’ll never see you again if I can help it/In five years I hope the songs feel like covers/Dedicated to new lovers,” Dacus repeats three times in the song’s refrain.
One of the album’s stronger songs is featured in the first half of the album. In “The Shell,” Dacus declares, “It’s a myth and now I see it clearly/You don’t have to be sad to make something worth hearing,” before most of the instrumentation dissolves as she sings the chorus, “You don’t wanna be a creator/Doesn’t mean you’ve got nothing to say/Put down the pen, don’t let it force your hand.”
“Yours & Mine,” the centerpiece of the 10-track album, is about the Baltimore protests against police brutality and racism in 2015, according to a Newsweek interview with the singer-songwriter. It starts out with a slow, serious vibe and launches into a more upbeat melody with a soaring guitar solo toward the end before Dacus repeats the latter part of the chorus, ending the song with the bittersweet words, “This ain’t my home anymore.”
The second half of the album solidifies the album’s personal theme, diving deeper into stories of Dacus’ own past.
On the bluesy “Timefighter,” Dacus’ smooth vocals meld perfectly with the rumbling baseline in the song’s first half that turns into a wall of gritty guitar chords.
“Next of Kin” is one of the more cheerful-sounding songs on the album, but it features Dacus pondering her own mortality, singing, “I am at peace with my death/I can go back to bed.”
In the second verse, she recites, “Never went to Monaco/But I held your hand in the pocket of my coat,” reiterating that although she can’t do and see everything she wants to in life, she can still find satisfaction.
The penultimate song, “Pillar of Truth,” is about the death of Dacus’ grandmother and is perhaps the most thoughtful song on the album. The chorus says, “I am weak looking at you/A pillar of truth/Turning to dust.” It starts out with a solemn tone and fully blooms about halfway through with the addition of horns and drums.
During the latter end of the song, Dacus evokes religious themes, even inverting lyrics from the hymn “Amazing Grace” by singing, “Lord, be near me/My final hour, I once had sight/But now I’m blind.” By the end, it feels like a celebration of life rather than mourning of a loss.
The final track, “Historians” is a fitting closer. A somber summary of what the entire album is about, it is a song about two people recording their own story and when one of them dies, the other will be left with the other’s entire history and memory to hold.
It would be easy to call this a sad album, but after a few listens, you start to realize maybe it isn’t sad – it’s just about a lot of real situations we go through as humans. “Historian” is a collection of moments and stories from Dacus’ life that any listener can relate to.