Boygenius returns with debut album

Boygenius’ debut album “the record” was released this Friday, and to say it was highly anticipated is an understatement. The singer/songwriter supergroup consisting of Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers – all who have their own successful solo careers – released a self-titled EP in 2018. Since then, fans have collectively wondered if it was a one-off project, but as Friday’s release signaled, the band is more than just a flash of creative lightning.

Members of the band started out as fans of each other’s work. Image courtesy of Apple Music

Known for their hyper-specific lyrics, melancholy guitar and overflowing emotion, the artists naturally work well together, adapting to one another’s distinct styles from song to song.

There is something to be said about the aforementioned “distinct styles.” At times on “the record,” it feels that the band is making what they think a Boygenius song should sound like, rather than just being Boygenius. Yet, the album is still an emotional spaceship ride – much more dramatic than a rollercoaster.

The album opens with “Without You Without Them,” a short song consisting of raw and unmixed vocals. The women harmonize, “Give me everything you’ve got / I’ll take what I can get / I want to hear your story / And be a part of it,” preparing listeners for the oversharing that’s to come.

The three singles released prior to the album follow, where a different member grabs the reins on each song. Baker’s “$20” is marked by her signature driving angsty electric guitar, as she pines over a past life of arson.

It’s Bridgers on “Emily I’m Sorry,” as she heart-wrenchingly apologizes to a lover for her destructive ways. Dacus completes the trifecta with “True Blue,” an ode to a friend experiencing the trials and tribulations of growing up and embracing adulthood. This run is certainly a bright spot on “the record.”

The light and airy – but still heartbreaking – “Cool About It” comes next, with the members working more cohesively now on a tune that details meetings between ex-lovers. They take us through the motions of moving on and willing oneself to feel better. As the song closes, Bridgers sings, “I’ll pretend bein’ with you doesn’t feel like drowning / Tellin’ you it’s nice to see how good you’re doing / Even though we know it isn’t true.” Ouch.

Known for their hyper-specific lyrics, melancholy guitar and overflowing emotion, the artists naturally work well together, adapting to one another’s distinct styles from song to song.

“Not Strong Enough” is the sixth track and the crown jewel of the album. The bright and sunny-sounding song features the entire band over-driving on percussion and vibrant acoustic guitar. Despite its hopeful and happy exterior, the song is sung from the point of view of a lover who cannot handle the weight of their relationship. The chorus harks, “The way I am / Not strong enough to be your man / I lied, I am / Just lowering your expectations.” Boygenius channels relatable, messy, complex and inherently human experiences throughout “the record” but chiefly on “Not Strong Enough.”

On the back half of the album, the quality dips slightly. The song “Leonard Cohen,” a Dacus cut, is the best example. The track quotes the title songwriter and further comments on him, “Leonard Cohen once said / ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ / And I am not an old man having an existential crisis / At a Buddhist monastery writing horny poetry / But I agree.” There is too much effort into sounding poetic here that it comes off as shallow, cheesy and borderline cringeworthy.

Baker’s led “Satanist” does the same, leaning way too far into the rebellious image of Boygenius that it feels the band loses themselves within. Though, this one is a bit more passable as that signature electric guitar is too good to ignore.

The album picks it back up with “Anti-Curse” and “Letter to An Old Poet.” The latter is an instant fan favorite as it interpolates and directly responds to Boygenius’ biggest hit, 2018’s “Me and my Dog,” doing so tastefully.

While there are some lackluster moments on this debut album, it ultimately does deliver a batch of twelve unwaveringly honest and emotional tracks. Giving listeners a space to laugh, cry and commiserate with Baker, Dacus and Bridgers, as they do with one another on “the record.”


4/5 Stars

Featured image courtesy of @xboygeniusx, Twitter