No Burden is the debut of Lucy Dacus, a singer and songwriter who grew up just outside of Richmond, Virginia and connected with the city's indie music scene as a high schooler. The album was recorded on relatively short notice when a friend alerted her to an open day at Nashville's Starstruck Studio, where he worked. Dacus put together a band of guitarist Jacob Blizard, bass player Christine Moad, and drummer Hayden Cotcher, and they arranged her songs for a quartet in the week leading up to a ten-hour recording session. The friend, Collin Pastore, engineered and mixed the album, which was co-produced by Dacus, Pastore, and Blizard, and led to a record deal with Matador Records within a matter of months. The buzz surrounding the album, the record deal, and the 21-year-old songwriter is merited, as Dacus' distinctive vocal timbre melts like butter and allures throughout the set of thoughtful rock tunes. Catchy standout and lead single "I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore" has chugging guitars topped by vocals that are surly but smooth as the protagonist tries on different roles in a clique, because "that funny girl doesn't wanna smile for a while." Another power pop entry, "Strange Torpedo," has driving drums and echoey electric guitars under a vocal track that contrasts with clarity. Dacus' way with lilting melodies is just as effective on the more intimate songs, such as the weary acoustic-guitar ballad "Trust." Elsewhere, "Dream State..." is accompanied by a light twang that also marks other parts of the album. A gradual mass of guitars, sound effects, and layered vocals builds while the singer recalls a figurative storm that altered a relationship. The more measured tracks outnumber the hooky, uptempo ones, which are bunched early in the track list, so No Burden does leave a melancholy impression. It's one full of warmth and engaging words and melodies, though, all guided by a voice that alone would prompt repeat listens.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson