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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

Boygenius is back together and better than ever


In 2018, friends Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers sat down in the recording studio and started spitballing ideas. Their debut EP, “Boygenius,” was met with critical acclaim for both songwriting and sonic cohesion. 

The self-titled debut album might ring some bells for people who have been paying attention to the music industry, but you’re more likely to recognize the band from the members’ solo careers. Individually, they’ve found massive success: Baker with nearly half a million listeners on Spotify, Dacus with two new studio albums and Bridgers with a couple of Grammy nominations. 

Now, the band is back together and better than ever. 

Boygenius’ first full-length project, “The Record,” is coming out on Mar. 31. To tease the upcoming release, the band has released three singles featuring each of the women in the band.

“$20” is Julien Baker’s song. As the beating heart of the band, it’s only fitting that “$20” is grounded by a steady drumbeat and rock-inspired guitar riff. At its simplest, it’s a song about running away; at its best, it’s a song about escapism despite how self-destructive it might be. It’s a breakup and damn the consequences. The obstacles are stacked against the protagonist. It’s a bad idea. The Chevy’s on cinder blocks. Baker is running out of gas, out of time and out of money. The songwriting is as vivid as ever, and the production quality — the swirling and chaotic harmonies toward the end — add a cinematic edge to the song. When I listen to “$20,” I imagine a desolated gas station in the desert. I imagine flooring it in a convertible with nothing but an open road in front of me. I imagine putting on a cool pair of shades and leaving my problems behind me like an empty 7-11 slushy cup. (It’s my favorite.)

“Emily I’m Sorry” is Phoebe Bridgers’ song. It was written as a demo right after the release of her second solo studio album, “Punisher,” and it shows. Bridgers brings the EP right back to center with a stripped-back track that draws all attention to her soft, lilting voice. It’s classic Boygenius. Bridgers takes Baker’s song and puts her own twist on it. She writes a road trip, but it feels like a drive back home instead of manic escapism. It’s about a codependent relationship that Bridgers must take the courage to end. As she quietly sings “I can feel myself becoming / Someone only you could want,” the verse slowly turns into “I can feel myself becoming / Somebody I’m not, I’m not.” This song is a quiet realization that she’s lost herself in her relationship. It’s a pensive moment: She’s driving as Emily quietly sleeps in the backseat. It’s like cruising down city streets late at night and all the lights start to blur together because you’re getting a little emotional. It feels like the lump in your throat in the aftermath of an argument and right before an apology.

“True Blue” is Lucy Dacus’ song. It brings some of the energy back, blending the delicate and thoughtful nature of Bridgers with the energy and punchiness of Baker. Unlike Bridgers and Baker, “True Blue” is about a healthy relationship. She gives her partner space to figure themselves out, even if they don’t know who they are yet. When they do, she’s there for them: “It feels so good to be known so well / I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself / I remember who I am when I’m with you.” It’s a portrait of domestic bliss. It’s moving in together and fixing leaky faucets and calling each other on the train home from work. It’s about letting arguments be water under the bridge and letting love be the bridge.

But these are just the singles. Right now, “The Record” is just an EP and there’s no telling how the LP is going to come together. Based on this collection, I’m not entirely sure if Boygenius is on the same wavelength. Baker’s song is the strongest of the three but makes a stylistic departure from Boygenius’ previously gentle discography. Despite the hot-and-cold metaphors scattered throughout the three singles (“arsonists” in “$20,” “burn out in the freezing cold” in “Emily I’m Sorry,” and “you’re a winter bitch / but summer’s in your blood” in “True Blue”) and themes of knowing and being known, I have no idea what the album is going to be about. 

I have high hopes. I know the band, at least, is united by a dedication to incredible songwriting. The teasers from “The Record” are no exception.