I’ve been in the list-making bunker, trying to figure out how to wrangle a whole mess of albums I really enjoyed this year, but I thought I’d step out briefly to join in the celebration of Lucy Dacus’ new tune, “Night Shift.”
It’s the lead single off her upcoming album, Historian (out March 2, pre-order here), and it’s a triumph, bursting at the seams with the brilliance that made “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” such a breakout success, including:
- Astoundingly vivid and memorable lyrics, with an opening that grabs your ears like few I’ve heard: “The first time I tasted somebody else’s spit I had a coughing fit.”
- Emotional intelligence that permeates every word, with brutally incisive lines like “You don’t deserve what you don’t respect, don’t deserve what you say you love and then neglect.”
- Vocals so rich and ranging that you feel like you’re along for the journey the lyrics describe.
- A lengthy coda that opens the song up dynamically in a cathartic combination of resignation and hope.
It was that exceptional coda that stood out when I saw her perform “Night Shift” at The National in 2016, but having an opportunity to sit with the quieter moments has been rewarding, as is always the case with Dacus’ music. Forgive me if I’ve said something similar in the past while singing her praises, but Dacus’ lyrics comprise some of my favorite writing anywhere, in much the same way that John Darnielle’s Mountain Goats lyrics feel like they transcend their form. Maybe award-winning novels are in her future, as well.
On more than one level, this song makes me look forward 2018. 2017 was a year in which I found myself enjoying more new music than ever while feeling less inspired to write about it in personal terms. Some of that was time scarcity, some was political-shitstorm-related paralysis, some was focusing on writing assignments in which my life didn’t figure prominently. But “Night Shift” brings me back to a place of excitement and energy. Some musicians make you want to run to the nearest instrument and start noodling; Dacus makes me want to start typing.
Speaking of which, back to the bunker for me. Hope y’all enjoy “Night Shift” as well.