Boygenius Is Back


Ava Soleibe, Staff Writer

 I do not know what the world did to deserve this band, but boygenius is here to stay after the arrival of their debut album “the record.” I recall gasping and dropping my phone the day it was illuminated by the image of three hands reaching toward a dark teal sky, captioned: “The record is out March 31 and three songs are out now.” If you are unfamiliar with the supergroup, perhaps you have experienced the nearly-seven-minute heart calamity that is Lucy Dacus’ “Night Shift,” heard Julien Baker’s confessional lyrics on an indie-rock station, or checked on a friend because their #1 artist was Phoebe Bridgers. Essentially any retreat into music as a coping mechanism would familiarize one with the counterparts of boygenius.

Tauntingly, boygenius released “$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry,” and “True Blue” on Jan. 18, as well as “Not Strong Enough,” on March 1, as precursors to the full album. I was enamored with how each of the tracks had one front man driving the feel, but still included moments from each artist. The song “$20” encapsulates that fragile feeling of scraping together memories out of lamentable circumstances by exuding catharsis and forced carefreedom. Julien Baker contributes lines made for belting at your best friend, in the car, windows down: “It’s a bad idea and I’m all about it” and “In another life we were arsonists,” while Phoebe Bridgers screams, like its life-dependent, as backing vocals. “Emily I’m Sorry” was reportedly the catalyst for boygenius’s revival, written by Bridgers and sent to Dacus and Baker, asking: “Can we be a band again?” (Everybody say thank you Phoebe). The track is a ballad melting with nostalgia for Bridgers’ other love songs that mysteriously know your soul, and it was a field day for fans who followed Bridgers’ relationship with Emily Bannon, leading to a level of scrutiny only the FBI should be allowed towards the lyrics. “True Blue” is an appreciation of loyal, long-haul love. Dacus has mastered injecting vivid images into her songs that could only come from memories, while also allowing space for lines like “And it feels good to be known so well/I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself” to decimate anyone listening. Love songs from the boys could easily be meant for each other, demonstrating the unparalleled bond between bandmates. “Not Strong Enough” speeds towards revelation, and not just because it depicts “Drag racing through the canyon/Singing ‘Boys Don’t Cry.’” According to boygenius, the rock track inspired by Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough” discusses “paradoxically experiencing self-hatred while having a God complex.” Each chorus embodies the artistry of a different voice, but all reverberate the backwards idea of thinking you are too messed up to be there for somebody else.

The album was released in entirety and creates a holistic conversation between songs that rebuke, respond to, and reference each other. “Without You Without Them” opens with startling peace, reminiscent of “Ketchum, ID” off the 2018 self-titled EP. The hymn-like acapella is sonically ensnaring, and attention to the lyrics would provide an introduction to a major theme of “the record:”  being known. This theme continues in “Leonard Cohen:” “Tellin’ stories we wouldn’t tell anyone else/You said, ‘I might like you less now that you know me so well’” and in “Satanist” as promises of occult practices are exchanged like friendship bracelets, culminating in “We’re In Love” another ode to the rich bond boygenius holds in high regard. Stripped to barely bass and Dacus sounding close to tears, it is the song to put on a playlist for your best friend to let them know they are seen.

A profound sense of humor is present throughout “the record,” a manifestation of comedians being the saddest people. Boygenius could have produced a poetic album of longing, (queue “Revolution 0” for that display) but instead lines like “Writin’ words/to the worst love song you’ve ever heard” and “…make fun of the cowboys with the neck tattoos” are running amok, making you laugh when it feels you should be crying about a long lost situationship. 

I have listened to this album so many times it feels like my own personal zeitgeist. It is the atmospheric drums, emotionally empty-tank vocals, and verses that steal your consciousness. It is the versatility, the hidden Taylor Swift and “Me & My Dog” references. It is the storytelling in “Anti-Curse” and the juxtaposition of lulling piano against simmering resentment in “Letter To An Old Poet.” It is what happens when three songwriting icons decide to create the album of the year.