boygenius – the record

24 Apr

The first boygenius album is exciting even before you hear it. Their EP was excellent music and it’s also just such a good feeling to see three exceptionally talented women living out the friendship we all wish we were lucky enough to have. This album feels like an evolution both in their music and their friendship and is excellent rock to boot.

We’ve heard a lot of Phoebe Bridgers of late and I’m always happy to hear more so it’s good to hear something like “Emily I’m Sorry,” which is as much of a Bridgers cut as anything on Punisher. She’s as delicate and wistful as ever and the apology of the song gives it a beating heart.

It’s fascinating how well it goes into Lucy Dacus’ “True Blue.” It’s much less gossamer than “Emily I’m Sorry” but they flow well into each other and the robustness is like eating something savory after something sweet. She drops some memorable epigrams in it too. “And it feels good to be known so well / I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself” is a strong lyric delivered well but “When you don’t know who you are / You fuck around and find out” is a truly excellent line in its reframing of a particularly trite aphorism.

Meanwhile, Julien Baker’s “Satanist” is one of the best songs of the album. It’s very funny and very personal and brings in a spectacular grungy guitar. Her “Anti-Curse” is also very strong. The lyrics don’t quite cohere, the two threads never splice together but it’s still spectacular indie rock.

There are some misses in the album though. “Letters To An Old Poet” would be too insubstantial were it not for Bridgers’ exceptional lyrics. “You made me feel like an equal / But I’m better than you / And you should know that by now” is an ice-cold line. The acapella opener with all three of them singing is better as an idea than a song. It has none of the energy that the rest of the album does well with and the it’s thankfully followed by the fantastic “$20” which adds a huge jolt.

“Not Strong Enough” really benefits from the video showing the three of them having fun. It makes a more complex statement about friendship, a statement about how you don’t need to be strong enough by yourself, but can instead rely on the people you love. It’s particularly interesting in an album that features a lot of my turn-your turn from the artists as they alternate songs in which they are clearly the lead.

Maybe though, this is what the album is about. It’s not about subsuming the individual for the collective, but instead of making sure that everyone has space for their own voice and sometimes using your own in support. “Not Strong Enough” does a lot of work with the line “Not strong enough to be your man” and then Dacus later reinforces that with a chant of “Always an angel, never a god” but the song, which is Dacus’ from the jump, ends with the three voices coming together powerfully.

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