Lucy Dacus’s 2016 debut, No Burden, was an incredibly promising first album, igniting a bidding war among several record labels. It was clear that the Richmond native was a natural talent, but one who had even more up her sleeve than she knew at the time. That first album gave her the audience and acclaim she deserved; her second, Historian, is fully aware of the room it’s playing to.
On No Burden, Dacus was open and honest about trying to figure out who she was. Historian similarly chronicles moments of reckoning—but where her first album was an exploration, this one is a proclamation. There’s a confidence as she accepts these moments, relaying them as learning experiences with clear next steps. The album opens with the sprawling, excellent “Night Shift,” one of the best breakup songs in recent memory: “In five years I hope the songs feel like covers / Dedicated to new lovers.”
As with her first album, Dacus worked with longtime collaborator Jacob Blizard and producer Collin Pastore to help flesh her songs out, and there isn’t a weak spot to point to. No Burden felt intimate and private, as if it were coming from a dorm room a few doors down; Historian feels like it knows it could fill a concert hall. Dacus gets loud and goes long, with strings and horns exactly where they need to be (the lush waltz of “Body to Flame” is especially breathtaking).
The experiences that Dacus sings about aren’t unfamiliar—a breakup, the death of a loved one, the reexamining of the religion you were raised in and the country you live in—but rarely are they so smartly, beautifully articulated. In “Yours & Mine,” which Dacus began writing in 2015 following the protests in Baltimore in response to systemic racism and police brutality, she sings, “For those of you who told me I should stay indoors, take care of you and yours / But me and mine, we’ve got a long way to go before we get home / ’cause this ain’t my home anymore.” History is made when things change, and the best historians are always keeping records. With this one, Dacus becomes one of our most trusted sources.