Lucy Dacus – ‘No Burden’ Review

Posted: by Sean Gonzalez

No Burden is a record that one finds and then loses in a state of recovery. It’s a personally challenging record for both the listener and the artist, with lyrics that are as pensive as they are vacant. The record’s nine songs fluctuate between being loud and quiet – between being wildly vibrant and thoughtfully shy. Most of all, Lucy Dacus embeds scraps of her soul into No Burden. She is struggling at the thought of discovering her identity; No Burden is her way of locating that missing individual inside and revealing her the world. 

Listening to the record from front to back mirrors meeting an individual. The first half of the record feature songs that are a bit more aggressive, as if Lucy is guarding herself from the listener. As the record progresses, she gradually becomes comfortable with her medium. Partway through the record, she is throwing her emotions around and opens her heart to the listener, trembling and vulnerable (“Trust”). This dynamic is a lifetime of questioning packed into a 35 minute audible experience that plays out like an extended and intimate conversation. 

Tearing at her own walls with the two opening tracks is a self aware and confused Dacus. Dacus’ current state has caused her to realize that her happiness is gone, “that funny girl doesn’t wanna smile for a while,” from “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore.” On the very next track, “Troublemaker Doppelgänger,” Dacus is questioning when exactly the idea of innocence died – when her innocence died: “No child is born knowing there’s an ugly or evil thing.” She’s an awestruck individual peering directly at the horrors of the world, whether they be the covers of magazines or the toxic envy of inner judgment, recognizing that at some point she lost her shelter and wishes to live in freedom. As the record moves along, Dacus is relinquishing her emotional barriers, hoping to show affection and care but her songs are unstable, as evidenced by “Strange Torpedo.” She makes and plays with the idea of endlessly falling, never quite hitting rock bottom because it may not even exist. Sandwiched between the worries of the world is the intimate “Green Eyes, Red Face” where Dacus finds herself wondering how much warmth she can show without becoming a victim to the monstrous beast she mentioned the song before: “she was a victim of the same disease that’s roaming the streets and bites when it please and makes us wanna live forever or die in infamy.

And that’s where we find Dacus on “Trust.” Her simple poetic stanzas reconstruct her world after sparking a fire that destroyed everything she once believed. Her constant paradoxical mind is trying to decipher whether what she’s doing is right or wrong; if she’s doing it for herself or someone else. Here, Dacus is emotionally charged but fragile – her passion louder than her music. With “Map On A Wall” Dacus is revealing every characteristic of herself and hoping to be accepted as just that. It’s the conversation everyone has when they are finding out that their problems are not their own, and that there is a natural familiarity with depression and corrupted health, “I’ve walked on two legs since I was a child, but when did I realize that some ways out, past the horizon for thousands of miles there are people like me, walking on legs like mine?” The song’s thunderous bass drum rattles the mix, her sentiment walking into the light after being stranded in the dark. From it’s early moments, the song makes an impressive climb; the drums ascend through miles of inner struggle, arriving at the peek to a dramatic realization and a smile. Dacus shreds the worry: “if you want to see the world, you have to say goodbye. Cause a map does no good hanging on a wall.” 

Two songs on No Burden share a refrain, and their song titles offer a fitting summary for the couplet: “Dream State” and “Familiar Place.” On the former she is watching someone leave her life and freely letting her puzzled mind piece it together in a sort of strange twilight. On the latter she is revisiting — I’ll argue almost accidentally — that now cold and dead feeling, as her memories play in a loop: “without you I am surely the last of our kind.” It’s a touching and fitting end to No Burden; she’s let down her guard, allowing herself to share her naked soul. No Burden is the resilient story of an artist shedding her emotional weight and combatting the struggle of an unbalanced mind — lost in thought and entirely removed — and still find peace within herself. 

Score: 9 (as close as possible to 10)/10

FFO: Torres and Angel Olson

edited by Riley Savage.