Much has transformed over the last half-decade since the inception of Boygenius, the self-titled EP released in 2018 by the collaborative efforts of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker. Initially brought together by their shared admiration for beloved authors and poets, this trio's connection goes beyond mere indescribable chemistry, encompassing chance encounters at music venues that ultimately shaped their journey.
An unparalleled collective, this supergroup comprises individuals who have delved deep into the realm of crafting music that encourages introspection. Consider Dacus’s raw portrayal of reality in ‘Night Shift’, Baker's poignant ‘Appointments’, and Bridgers’s unrestrained and cathartic ‘I Know The End’, the singer-songwriters unequivocally showcase their skill in unraveling complex emotions in profoundly evocative manners.
A brilliant album by brilliant musicians, here’s a track by track review of Boygenius’ debut album ‘The Record’.
Without You Without Them
Boygenius certainly knows how to make a captivating entrance. Seamlessly picking up from where they left off, their opening track continues the journey from their 2018 release, specifically the last song ‘Ketchum, ID’. Lucy Dacus takes the lead in the trio, guiding them through serene barbershop-style harmonies. However, it's important to note that the band doesn’t intend to make it an easy ride for the listeners. Beneath the vibrant and harmonious vocals lies the weight of their collective history, a testament of gratitude handed down through generations. In a gesture that solidifies their deep connection, the band once again opens the doors to each other's lives. This process is akin to an initiation into their shared world of storytelling. Consequently, we are presented with a scenario where they reach out to each other, urging for conversations and maintaining a strong bond “Speak to me / Until your history’s no mystery to me.” This becomes an earnest plea to stay connected and provide unwavering support to one another.
Distinguishing the ownership of each track among the boys is a straightforward task. The essence of Julien Baker is unmistakably woven into the fabric of this track. From the evocative guitar riffs to the vivid depiction of American politics, this track stands as a distinct emblem of her mastery showcased across her own albums. Both Dacus and Bridgers make their contributions felt; the latter adds a touch of gritty screams from Bridgers that wouldn’t feel out of place in a rebellious 90s grunge-inspired rock album, enhancing the swelling outro. Meanwhile, Dacus holds her ground throughout the song's dynamic and briskly-paced verses.
Emily, I’m Sorry
When the chorus of the song arrives, the voices of Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker blend in, creating a contrasting melody that intersects with Bridgers’s soft leading vocals. At times, this blend finds resolution into a harmonious line, yet it often maintains its distinctiveness. In this track, a musical interplay masterfully captures the complex sensation of being simultaneously propelled forward and ensnared by the emotion of love. Throughout the verses, amidst yearnings for a stable future tinged with hope and remorse, a flanged guitar soundscapes amplify the experience of an internal dialogue unraveling without restraint. Bridgers’s lyrics resonate with the sentiment, “I’m 27 and uncertain of my identity, yet my desires are clear,” as she courageously embraces her wants despite the awareness that they may never culminate in genuine fulfillment.
‘True Blue’ traces a steadfast affection, in which another person holds a deeper understanding of you than you do of yourself. One of Dacus’s notable talents as a lyricist lies in her ability to convey her bonds with others through precise instances and emotions: a damp upper lip, the biting cold of Chicago, and the openness of revealing oneself to another. In both vocal harmonies and meticulous production, Baker and Bridgers provide unwavering support to Dacus. The sentiment “It's comforting to be so comprehended” is shared in ‘True Blue’, directed at a companion or a partner, yet it might equally apply to her fellow band members.
Cool About It
Painted with acoustic chords and subtle banjo accents, this folk-rock composition immerses itself in storytelling. With each member taking a verse, they weave distinct narratives of chance encounters with former partners. The song encapsulates the sensation of yearning for something slightly beyond grasp, along with the challenge of maintaining composure in the presence of unreciprocated affection. Evoking an alternative form of closeness, ‘Cool About It’ stands as a testament to the trio's prowess as song writers.
Not Strong Enough
‘Not Strong Enough’ vividly showcases the essence of the young men comprising the group. Representing one of the band's more collaborative endeavors, the song revisits the album's earlier rock sound and subsequently transforms into an intensified state of euphoria. Enhanced by the song's profound lyrics, the trio articulates a sensation of succumbing to the complexities of a paradoxically experiencing self-hatred while having a God complex. As the bridge gains momentum, fleeting surges of synthesizer notes ripple through the musical passage, accompanied by an atmospheric strumming of guitars that introduces an additional dimension to the already robust sense of exuberant indie-rock. Even after the song concludes, an insuppressible urge might arise within you to scream: “Always an angel, never a god.”
Given Phoebe’s substantial admiration for Elliott Smith, it comes as no surprise that ‘Revolution 0’ exhibits several connections to his life and artistic journey. Elliott Smith himself has paid homage to The Beatles by covering numerous of their songs, given his profound admiration for the band's influence. Dialing things back, Bridgers leads a gentle acoustic ballad that ponders over purpose and the position of love. Exhausted, solitarily, she asked: “If it isn’t love then what the fuck is it?”
Whether you perceive this track as a homage to Leonard Cohen hinges on your individual viewpoint. To begin, despite its titular connection, the song does not revolve around Cohen himself. Instead, it spotlights Leonard, who is frequently alluded to within the song, as the originator of the saying, “there's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in.” This sentiment encapsulates the idea that positivity is inseparable from adversity. Alternatively, one might consider this notion as suggesting that the true value of life's blessings is heightened by enduring challenges. It's one of those existential declarations that resonate with us all, even if articulating its essence proves elusive. But then interestingly, Lucy proceeds to describe Leonard in what can be deemed a less-than-flattering way, as “an old man having an existential crisis at a Buddhist monastery writing horny poetry.”
Nihilistic tendencies, existential ponderings, and profound philosophical inquiries have never been strangers to the artistry of Dacus, Bridgers, and Baker. As ‘Satanist’ unfolds with a sequence of partially transactional queries, the trio appears to be probing the boundaries of their actions. Against a backdrop of raw and weighty riffs, the song trembles as Bridgers unleashes a primal scream. Following the bridge's instrumental interlude, Baker assumes the mantle, engaging in contemplation, allowing her thoughts to “wander,” while the once-fiery guitar frenzy gradually subsides into silence.
We’re In Love
Completely steeped in the essence of a Dacus composition, ‘We’re In Love’ brilliantly showcases the songwriter's mastery in capturing an emotion and weaving it into music. Yet, it goes beyond that; it's a tune dedicated to her band, a beautifully open-hearted affirmation of their collective identity. Defying the album's usual rock-oriented direction, Dacus guides us on a wandering journey through moments of elation and potential, all the while acknowledging the potential for setbacks: “In the event you reshape your life's narrative, could I continue to have a role in it?”
Pushing the boundaries of their sonic expression, Baker passionately projects her voice into the expanse, tugging on the delicate strand of a romantic tale. Within this narrative, she fondly recalls moments of exploring profound emotions and igniting sparks akin to fireworks. As the song reaches its bridge, cascading drums seamlessly meld with fervent guitar riffs, creating a dynamic fusion. In the song's opening moments, she confronts the aftermath, crafting lyrics to the “worst” love song: “Soundin’ out the foreign characters / An incantation like an anti-curse / Or even a blessing.”
Letter To An Old PoetSymbolically brandishing the banner of her former self, there exist instances within The Record where Phoebe's individual contributions eclipse the cohesiveness of the album as a whole, and this particular moment stands out. ‘Letter To An Old Poet’ functions as an intangible thread woven between Punisher, Bridgers herself, and back again. However, the interconnection doesn’t conclude there. Her deliberate craftsmanship of her lyrics persists, with lines from the 2018 track ‘Me & My Dog’ seamlessly interwoven, creating an almost overlapping effect. Moreover, the song maintains a link to its preceding release by incorporating ambient sounds from a live audience in the background. As the melody gently swells, the concluding lines segue into her yearning for happiness, exuding a sense of hope and anticipation.