- by Steve Ricciutti Rating:9 Release Date:2016-09-09 Label: Matador
Thumping out of the gate with a Pumpkins-esque guitar melody before young Miss Lucy Dacus drops, “I don’t wanna be funny anymore.” My brain was immediately awash with endorphins.
It doesn’t stop there, either. The first five, well six, well fuck – a lot of the songs are just too damn good to believe such a person can be so precocious. It’s one thing to find young artists who make cutesy overproduced pedestrian pop, but quite another to fuse indie songwriting, crunching rock, and the occasional soaring ballads (and I mean that in the best way, so you can go back to Hell, Steven Tyler) along with brutally honest and self-effacing (as well as funny and snarky) lyrics into one very engaging disc. There are artists twice Dacus’ age who aren’t this gifted.
“Strange Torpedo” is a great track, starting slowly as many of these songs do, before hitting a perfect pop chorus. “One of these nights I’ll sleep with the window down, but not until that creature is in the ground,” she sings in “Troublemaker, Doppelgangaer,” a smoldering blues that builds to a powerful finish. On “Green Eyes, Red Face” Dacus is back to the perfectly portrayed fragile and vulnerable person that lurks within each amazing song. Nowhere is that more evident than on the highlight, the epic “Maps on the Wall.” Pleading, “Oh please, don’t make fun of me,” she details a list of self-conscious features that is at once heartbreaking and yet also strangely empowering. By the time this song is at its galloping peak, she brings things down and reminds us that, “…only good comes from bad anyway.” It’s crushing in the most beautiful way.
As a fifty-something guy who plays bedroom guitar and noodles around on GarageBand for my rock and roll kicks, I can’t decide whether it pisses me off or makes me hopeful that a twenty-one year old songwriter out of Richmond, Virginia can put together such an album, recorded in all of one day in Nashville. What I quickly decided however, is that said record is good, quickly ratcheted up to damn good after a few more spins. Making matters of self-confidence worse is that No Burden is her debut, for fuck’s sake. Nobody promised the universe was fair.
“Dream State” and “Familiar Place” echo the same lines; “Without you, I’m surely the last of my kind.” For all those who appreciate great music, let’s hope not.