Released February 26, 2016
You know when you hear thirty seconds of something and know that it is going to be incredibly important? You immediately begin to message all of your friends, maybe you email your mom (Just me? Just me.). It’s like your head is bursting and you need to share the feeling. That’s what listening to any track on Lucy Dacus’s debut album, No Burden, is like. Each song is its own little revelation.
The nine-track album begins with “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” which was released as a single last year. While the steady electric guitar at the beginning almost tricks you into thinking the song will be a raging anthem, Dacus’s vocals arrive and keep things understated. She floats effortlessly through feelings of discontent regarding being mislabeled in her friend group. The lyrics are straightforward and relatable, but the shining aspect is Dacus’s voice. Her warm alto is the guiding light of No Burden, and even if her lyrics on each track weren’t so expertly crafted, she could probably sing the phonebook and I would still be enamored.
Next up is “Troublemaker Doppelganger.” It begins with a sort of Southern-inflected electric guitar and drums. The song is about, as the title suggests, spotting the lookalike of a bad-news girl Dacus used to know. “I wanna sleep with the windows down / but not ’til that creature’s in the ground.” We’re never let in on the beef between the two girls, but we can be sure it’s serious. The song morphs into a wider discussion about innocence lost and waking up to the reality of ugliness in the world. This happens a lot throughout No Burden—we begin a track in one place and end it with a vaster idea.
“Green Eyes, Red Face” is a lilting and dreamy glance across a crowded bar; and “Strange Torpedo” is an uptempo example of the control Dacus has over her voice. The lines bleed together and even at the loudest moment of the song, she never sounds as though running through the notes takes much exertion at all. “Dream State…” is a love song not lacking in complexity. “If you hadn’t come over I would be so much colder / I would be much less confused.” Modern love described expertly.
The second half of No Burden turns inward and the lyrics become more introspective. “Trust” is an acoustic exploration into what it means to let go and trust oneself completely. When she sings, “If I trust in something else, I don’t need to trust myself,” we realize that Dacus is not quite there yet, but if the insightful songs on No Burden are any indication, she’s well on her way.
“Map on a Wall” is a self-aware masterpiece clocking in at 7:28. Every minute is necessary to build from a personal plea, “Please, don’t make fun of me / You know I get frightened so easily,” to the glowing awareness that every person is living a completely unique human experience. It ends with what seems like a credo, “If you want to see the world, you have to say goodbye // Cause a map does no good hangin’ on a wall.”
“Direct Address.” This. Song. This is maybe the best love song ever. Like maybe we can be done writing them now because this exists. “Honesty is like a kiss on the lips / Come closer and I’ll tell you exactly how it is.” SOS THIS LINE IS KILLING ME. The songs seems to be dealing with a missed connection of sorts rather than a fully realized relationship, and Dacus’s smoky voice leads us heart first into the world of this tune. “I don’t believe in love at first sight / Maybe I would if you looked at me right.” It’s a gorgeous track concerned with the potential for things to unfold.
[Sidenote: if this is truly a “direct address” does the person realize this song is about them, and more importantly did they immediately have a heart attack when they heard it??]
The album closes with the slow and ethereal “…Familiar Place.” It’s a callback to “Dream State…” with the repetition of the line “Without you I am surely the last of our kind.” It wraps up No Burden nicely after the string of really lyric-heavy tracks.
No Burden puts Lucy Dacus on the map in a very major way. Her songs are thoughtful without being overwrought. Her lyrics are relatable and intricately laced together, and her voice is sure to convert any doubter. This album will definitely be on repeat for a long while.