For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a fascination with reminiscing on my childhood and my teenage years, regardless of subject matter. I have romanticized most of the experiences I’ve gone through during the most formative years: the good, the bad, and the straight up embarrassing. I’m not quite sure why I am this way, but one possibility points to my parents’ extensive collection of home video recordings—you know—the way that people before the SmartPhone age were forced to capture big moments.
As a kid, my family would watch these recordings all the time, fiddling with the oversized camcorder, attempting to find the ways to plug it into our VCR to get the videos to appear on the TV. Regardless of how many times we had succeeded in getting it to work, it seemed like we were never able to remember how to do it right the next time. We would form inside jokes with one another about the ridiculous moments caught on film that captured my sister and I’s innocence as children in a way that arguably doesn’t exist anymore. Not only is it incredibly easy to record essentially any situation you want to (earlier this week, while running an errand in Los Angeles, I saw a woman walking around completely topless, a man recording her on his iPhone across the street), but it’s also a habit that most people (at least the ones that I know) have that debatably waters down the intimacy of an activity that used to be reserved for special moments.
I’ve said it in the past and I will say it again: the theme of nostalgia is one that is certainly not uncommon in music, but it’s also one of my favorites. And it’s all over Lucy Dacus’ third album, Home Video, an album about Dacus’ childhood in Richmond, Virginia, and the intricacies of growing up that exist in all of our experiences. Something interesting about the songs that tell the tale of Dacus’ childhood is that they paint an image of a lifetime etched in the past prior to the era she grew up in, and I know this because Lucy and I are both 26-years-old.
Home Video also likely feels cinematic because of Dacus’ other skill: before she pursued a career in music, she was in film school. The songs tell the stories of sneaking out to meet your first “love,” wandering around neighborhoods aimlessly, spitting out peach pits and going to summer camp. These anecdotes are ones that are easy to visualize in your head, because they’re universally understood as well as described distinctly in Dacus’ songwriting, almost feeling other-wordly: and that’s because in a way, they are. Us millennials can remember a time where we didn’t have a portable computer by our side at all hours of the day, when socializing took place playing outside, not on a network.
The album’s first track, “Hot & Heavy,” deserves its spot as the opener of the album: setting up the rest of the album’s narrative quite seamlessly. Here, we go on a journey with Dacus, returning to a place that no longer holds the emotional importance that it once did, and exploring the competing feelings that come along with that revelation.
As we continue into the album, we are introduced to a new character in “Christine,” a love song to a friend that you want to shake because of their inability to make the right decision for themselves: specifically involving a partner that doesn’t deserve them. The storyline goes even further, where Dacus describes what she’d go so far as stopping the wedding—am I the only one who thinks of Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now” in this moment? (“But if you’d get married / I’d object / Throw my shoe at the altar / and lose your respect / I’d rather lose my dignity / Then lose you to somebody who won’t make you happy”).
The album picks up in “First Time,” a song that features classic sounds of an indie rock track: a muddled drums and a distorted guitar line. Here, we see Dacus exploring the spark of experiencing something for the first time, the newness of the unknown becoming desirable in itself. Though an easy song to bop your head to, it ultimately feels forgettable in comparison to the rest of the album, sonically and subject-wise.
Standout tracks from the album include “Cartwheel,” Dacus’ twist on a folk song that sounds like Fleet Foxes or First Aid Kit. It’s also another one about friendship: the unbreakable bond formed between two teenagers, one that ebbs and flows with admiration and jealousy, the feeling of betrayal when a friend loses their virginity before you. “Thumbs,” a fan favorite that was the lead single ahead of the album (Dacus has played it several times live at previous shows), “Partner in Crime” sounds like a collaboration between Bon Iver, Kanye West, and James Blake (feel free to comment some other electronic artist this song reminds you of), and is arguably the most risk sonically that Dacus has made to date.
Boygenius fans (the supergroup formed by Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker back in 2018) will be pleased to see that Bridgers and Baker have returned to provide backup vocals on two of the songs towards the end of the album (“Going Going Gone” and “Please Stay,” Baker is credited on the closing song of the album in “Triple Dog Dare.”) Other surprise names include Mitski and Liza Anne as featured artists on “Please Stay,” as well, which is arguably the saddest and most emotionally heavy track on the entire album. The listener will probably interpret this track in their own way: but in a universal way, it’s about a loss. If you’re going through a breakup, that’s probably how you’re imagining the song unfolding in your head. If you’ve experienced a friend or family member going through a dark time, that’s what you hear.
“VBS” exemplified Dacus’ experience growing up religious, and leads us into the final song’s subject matter. “VBS” (for those of us who didn’t grow up going to church, this stands for Vacation Bible School”) shows Dacus grappling with her beliefs on the matter, (“You say that I showed you the light / But all it did in the end / Was make the dark feel darker than before”), “Triple Dog Dare” exposes Dacus’ experiences in religion as one where she internalized immense ashame for having romantic feelings towards a female friend.
From W Magazine: “Dacus no longer identifies as Christian, but that shame can sometimes still be hard to shake. So: What is it like to look back at your teen self after coming out? “Total facepalm. “I’m like, this is so obvious that you and this friend loved each other. You could have, like, dated, instead of acting weird and trying to sabotage each other’s love lives. There’s all these things that I kept myself from experiencing.”
We’re all walking around scratching our heads, mystified at the people we once were and wanted to be as teenagers. Hopefully Home Video can give you permission to tell that younger version of yourself that it’s going to be okay.
Home Video is out now.