“Thumbs” – Single Review

Tony Madden

With smooth vibratos over a smooth synth background, Lucy Dacus sings the narrative of a friend’s rocky relationship with her father in “Thumbs.”

Performed at a number of Dacus’ live shows over the years, “Thumbs” was finally released this week on streaming services. 

The lyrics are chock-full of narrative, leaving little room for metaphor or hyperbole while Dacus recounts the day her friend’s estranged father came to town. Dacus reminded her friend that she wasn’t obliged, but she still meets him.

“He hadn’t seen you since the fifth grade– Now you’re nineteen and you’re five-eight,” she sings. “He said ‘Honey, you sure look great. Do you get the checks I send on your birthday?’”

Dacus even goes on to say she’d kill her friend’s father if she could, in retribution for the pain he’s inflicted: “I imagine my thumbs on the irises, pushing in until they burst.”

Just before the song fades into silence, Dacus gives her friend one last reminder.

“You two are connected by a pure coincidence,” she says. “Bound to him by blood, but baby, it’s all relative. You’ve been in his fist ever since you were a kid, but you don’t owe him shit even if he said you did.”

Anyone who has had a strained parental relationship – or one with any family member we’re meant to love – can relate to to “Thumbs.” What are we to do when the ones we feel so obliged to love continually let us down?

At face value, “Thumbs” is about just that: a strained parental relationship. But in reality, it’s a song about friendship: a bond so strong that Dacus would murder if it meant avenging a person she loves.

It’s heavy stuff, and even Dacus admitted that writing the song gave her a visceral reaction.

“​Like most songs I write, I wasn’t expecting it and it made me feel weird, almost sick,” she said in a statement. “I knew I wanted a long time to get used to playing it since it made me feel shaky, so I ended sets with it for about half the shows I played in 2019.”

“Thumbs” has immediately earned its spot on my crying playlist, for Dacus’ effortlessly soothing vocals and deep-cut lyrics she always brings to the table. Listen here: