Review: Lucy Dacus hovers high above the rest with 'Historian' (Grade: A)


“Historian,” the 10-song sophomore masterpiece from Lucy Dacus, is the best album I’ve heard all year.

Indie, a genre filled with far too many artists and bands who sound the same, needs more talents like Dacus.

The 23-year-old powerhouse singer-songwriter has the type of voice that hits you like the warmth of a bright sun, even on the coldest days. It’s strong and sturdy, possessing a depth and uniqueness most vocalists could only dream about.

The album kicks off with the fabulous “Night Shift,” which even at 6 minutes and 32 seconds, leaves you wanting more.

“The first time I tasted somebody else’s spit, I had a coughing fit / I mistakenly called them by your name / I was let down, it wasn’t the same” are the first lyrics you hear. Her words lure you in on each song, feeling more like conversation – one she’s having with you, the listener.

The album flows effortlessly from moments of delicacy to spells showcasing a more forceful, dynamic Dacus. She and her band are flawless – from the album’s most subtle intervals to the stretches of elevated commotion.

“Addictions” and “The Shell” feature some catchy, captivating guitar work and hooks you’ll find yourself singing.

Like on every song on the album, Dacus sings “Nonbeliever” with such a straightforward sense of authenticity that separates the best from the rest:

“If you find what you’re looking for, be sure to send a new address / And if you find what you’re looking for, write a letter and tell us what it is, and tell us what it is / Everybody else, everybody else, looks like they’ve figured it out.”

There are certain moments of instrumentation that stand out, but throughout the album, it’s Dacus and her band’s remarkable ability to meld it all together that’s the key. The band’s members sound as if they have spent decades playing with each other, hitting all the right notes at all the right times – together.

“Yours & Mine,” features a hardy guitar lead, and “Body to Flame” is built up by a standout string arrangement, but both are enhanced by the strong playing of the rest of the band.

The sultry “Timefighter” slides from a slow crawl to an absolutely roaring finale.

On songs such as “Next of Kin,” it’s Dacus’ lyrics which are most impressive:

“I used to be too deep inside my head / Now, I’m too far out of my skin, too far out of my skin / I am at peace with my death / I can go back to bed / I can go back to bed. ... I don’t wanna be that man on the train / On a grey commute, imagining fame / Sweet relief, I will never be complete / I will never be complete / I’ll never know everything / I will never be complete.”

The second-to-last track, “Pillar of Truth,” is an epic dive into Dacus’ thoughts. The ride’s payoff – when Dacus screams “Screams out to you!” – makes the 7-plus-minute runtime more than worth the journey.

The album’s finale, “Historian,” is an airy, soft and beautiful final scene for an absolutely breathtaking album. On it, Dacus speaks about filling pages, being a historian for someone she loves. She ponders questions we’re lucky enough to wonder along with her.

On the album, Dacus provides an honest window into the soul of special talent.

If there’s a bad song on the album, a sour note or a moment of insincerity on “Historians,” I haven’t found it yet.

To me, what Dacus has done here is downright remarkable, and there’s absolutely no doubt it will go down in history as one of 2018’s best.