Arts & Entertainment, High Notes

First Time by Lucy Dacus

By Ron Powers


First Time by Lucy Dacus

It’s August and the dog days of summer are in full swing. This month I want to focus on an upbeat number by Lucy Dacus called “First Time”. This song is perfect for a nice drive. And since many of us are heading to beaches, campgrounds, and vacation spots this time of year I thought I’d bring this tune to your attention.

“First Time” begins with a brief percussion section which is created by processing white noise with an auto-modulating EQ. Under the percussion, Dacus layers a faint synth arpeggio which has a somewhat random rhythmic pattern. These two elements combine to create a subtle tension just before an upbeat and gritty arrangement of drums, bass, and guitars is added.

The sound of “First Time” has overtones of garage rock and undertones of synth pop and dream rock. Lucy Dacus delivers a relaxed and elegant vocal performance along with lyrics that possess the sort of poetic authority that is refreshingly abnormal in popular music. In addition, her voice is decorated with biting distortion effects, along with subtle slapback delay, and reverb. This combination of vocal delivery and vocal processing creates something that is both soothing and edgy.

For the verses, Lucy describes the excitement of young love. Her lyrics express the thrill of being a kid and connecting to someone special. The depth of Dacus’ poetic voice is easily recognized while listening to the verses of “First Time”. With just a few lines, she communicates what might require several pages of prose. A simple arrangement of driving rhythm guitars, and skip-beat drums support and add color to the lyrics and melody of the verse. The fast pace of the music further supports and adds to the expression of what young love feels like.

Between the verse and chorus, Dacus adds a short and lovely instrumental. Surf-rock slide guitar introduces this section as the bass drops out of the mix. Next, we hear light and airy synth notes which create a soft-breeze-on-your-face sort of feeling. Heavily reverb-processed guitar rakes are also layered in which further deepen the instrumental’s contrast to the gritty and in-your-face sound of the verse. The dreamy synth notes and guitar rakes are supported by a single organ-style synth chord which swells and shimmers with tension as the song builds toward its chorus. This section of the song is an unconventional structural move and points to the organic and natural way its writer creates.

For the first chorus, Lucy repeats the satisfying and easy-to-remember line, “You can’t feel it for the first time, a second time”. Although repetition is used for the chorus, Dacus uses melodic variation to keep the song from sounding repetitive. Additional lyrics are added to the second chorus which further enforces the asymmetrical and organic feel of “First Time”.

If you’d like to listen to “First Time” or any of Dacus’ other music,  you can find it on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and most places music is streamed or sold. Lucy Dacus currently has live performances booked into 2022. You can find tickets and info on her website, To learn more about Lucy you can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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