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KUMD Album Review: 2019

Lucy Dacus
Lucy Dacus

Since Virginia native Lucy Dacus released her first single, “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” in the fall of 2015, her music career has ascended at an astonishing speed. Both her debut album, No Burden, and her sophomore album, Historian, enjoyed critical acclaim. n 2018 Dacus formed one third of the supergroup boygenius with friends and fellow musicians Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers. The subsequent EP stunned audiences with its devastating lyrics and sweet, haunting melodies. With a third album on the way, Dacus released seven songs corresponding with holidays over the course of 2019. This month the songs were released on an official EP with Matador Records, half originals and half covers.

The EP opens with the Dacus-penned “Fool’s Gold,” written after a New Year’s Eve party she hosted. Twinkling piano and soft, steady guitar underscore drinking the last of the champagne and having locked the door after the guests are gone. Her lyrics are wry and a little sad, her poetry precise and engaging. To celebrate Valentine’s Day Dacus recorded a stirring cover of “La Vie en Rose.” It builds past the original’s steady sway, refitting the ballad with an indie rock jive and tempo. Dacus’ fluttering vocals switch deftly from French to English. Her version builds to a climax Piaf’s rendition does not, granting the song a new arc. 

The Mother’s Day original “My Mother & I” follows with a slow, stirring ode to motherhood and what passes through it. “Forever Half Mast” is another Dacus original, penned for the Fourth of July, reflecting on the joys and deep shame that intertwine in the American consciousness. Electric slide guitar accents and the occasional hums of keyboard provide welcome moments of surprise in the arrangement.

The faithful cover of “Dancing in the Dark,” released for The Boss’ birthday, doesn’t add many bells or whistles, relying instead on a stripped-down rock band sound. Dacus’ voice melts with the melody; even if it’s not unique, it’s still a worthy, danceable, passionate cover. Her covers of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and WHAM!’s “Last Christmas” for Halloween and Christmas, respectively, offer more personalized takes on the songs; “In the Air Tonight” features a similar lead vocal filter and percussion as the original, but Dacus employs a distant, haunting drone in her singing, as well as moments of distortion. A deep buzzing bass supports the airy harmonies on the refrain, building a tension that validates her choosing the song for a Halloween release.

“Last Christmas” closes 2019 and 2019 with a brisk pop-punk rendition of the WHAM! classic. Dacus’ vocals are charismatic and sassy on the verses, then light and cheery during the chorus. It’s a blast of a track and an invigorating way to end this EP; it’s almost enough to make the wait for Dacus’ next album feel shorter.

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