In Albums Of The Year, A.V. Club staffers write about a record that defined 2016 for us. Maybe it isn’t the year’s absolute best record—or even our No. 1 favorite—but it’s one that, without it, music would have been a whole lot less interesting.
Lucy Dacus, No Burden
Lucy Dacus’ debut album reminds me of so many things that I already love that its only downside might be a sense of overfamiliarity, even on first listen. But No Burden isn’t too much of a good thing; it’s a synthesis of disparate-but-similar favorites from Julie Doiron and Low to Cat Power and Sharon Van Etten. There’s definitely more of an indie-rock—emphasis on the second part—here than those comparisons might suggest, as Dacus turns on the distortion and revs up as often as not. The opening track tips the album’s hand in the best way. “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” is massively catchy, smart, and funny, with Dacus cheekily trying to figure out what to do with herself: “Is there room in the band? / I don’t need to be the front man,” she sings, and you can hear the knowing smile through the speakers. Elsewhere Dacus and her band mix in tiny flecks of other sounds to put her words across. “Green Eyes, Red Face” starts with a rumbling guitar that sounds straight out of post-rock Chicago in 1995, but Dacus’ vocal melody goes almost bluesy and sultry. It’s not the album’s standout performance, but it’s quietly bold in its willingness to subtly genre-jump. But it’s the epic “Map On A Wall” that ties all parts of No Burden into one fantastic whole: Its seven minutes push from a timid voice alone in a room—“Oh please, don’t make fun of me,” it begins—to a bold statement of purpose both lyrically and musically, and pushing the singer from a lonely start to a world traveler. It’s been exciting to see the big world embrace her right back this year.