Home Video, the third album from indie rocker Lucy Dacus, sounds like an ending. Through these first three records, she’s been refining both her sound and her approach to autobiography. As she moved from No Burden to breakthrough album Historian to this record, she maintained her sharp observations while developing a more studied look at her own past. Home Video, as the title suggests, deliberately pauses to go over those youthful moments worthy of a second look, many of them revelatory when viewed from a slightly older perspective. With catchy melodies and always engaging writing, the record brings Dacus’ early era to a sort of summation, a realization of what’s been coming, yet without any sense of her artistic momentum slowing down.
The album begins with a comfortable Dacus melody and a clear flip through a yearbook on “Hot & Heavy”. That titular phrase does, of course, suggest some intense making out “in the basement of your parents’ place”, but the singer turns the song into something else, a reflection on memory itself, perhaps. At times, it sounds as if she’s singing to a younger version of herself, but she never drops the actual romance that provides the song’s center. When she sings, “The most that I could give to you was nothing at all / The best that I could offer was to miss your calls,” it’s both heartbreaking and probably apt. These memories, while causing her face to flush, also remind her of the weight of these old connections (exploring some ideas traceable back to No Burden).
As Dacus reveals more and more, she also acknowledges the complications of secrecy and ambiguity. “VBS” takes an easygoing trip back to vacation Bible school, but it comes with surprising depths. The religious struggle won’t surprise anyone at this point, but the tales of snorting nutmeg and people covering up domestic violence and using Slayer to escape the void might. Dacus finds poignancy in the struggle, and when she recognizes that showing her boyfriend “the light” only served to “make the dark darker than before,” she sums up a crisis that extends well beyond adolescence, aided by an overdriven guitar.
At times, finding any sort of light would be difficult within Home Video. Fan-favorite “Thumbs” graphically fantasizes about murdering someone’s dad. “Partner in Crime” (notable for its Auto-Tuned vocals, a questionable choice) discusses deceit and inappropriate relationships. “Triple Dog Dare” breaks down a thwarted relationship forming among complex sexual discoveries. No one in Dacus’ world seems quite capable of just finding peace.
If that were all the album offered, Dacus’ lyricism would still carry a strong album, but something in her observational approach reveals a way through the dark. “Triple Dog Dare” might be based on a relationship stunted by an anxious, conservative parent, but the song’s ending imagines an escape. Dacus’s writing provides art as a way forward, whether through fantasy, catharsis, or the simple joy of creation. Her pleasure in writing comes through, a wry playfulness apparent even when addressing serious topics. The past might continue to wash into the present, but it can be examined, perhaps understood, and turned into something beautiful.
In that process, Dacus wraps up a particular phase of her art with Home Video. She’ll likely continue reflecting on the past, whether childhood, adolescence, or her more recent adventures (even now, she recognizes how her status limits the ways she can interact with her hometown). Regardless, she’s given us a peak to stand on, allowing us to look in whichever direction we choose.