Release of one of the most anticipated albums of the year, boygenius’ ‘the record‘ hits incredibly hard with themes of lost love, hate and spite from lovers past, and faking love until you hopefully make it. ‘the recordit covers a lot of love, in so many beautiful and heartbreaking contexts, but most notably it covers the love each boygenius member has for the other; Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers are possibly the love of each other’s lives, and they’re shouting it from the rooftops.
With the release of their immensely successful 2018 self-titled EP, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus gave the world a taste of their power and their respective talents, achieving critical acclaim with just six songs as a supergroup. Since then, boygenius, as a project, seemingly faded into the background as each member ventured into their own already impressive solo careers; release albums and tour as they normally would.
But we were still here, and we wanted more. And now Baker, Dacus and Bridgers have answered the call; releasing their debut album’the record‘, a mix of hardcore punk and folk ballads, fueled by each member’s love for themselves, each other, and lovers who will come and go.
From the calming introductory track ‘Without You Without Them’, something more akin to a brooding barbershop quartet that lost a member along the way, it’s the big bang that is ‘$20′, a single that is fueled by both indie and punk roots. . With vocals layered and harmonies throughout the track flowing through punchy, powerful guitar and drums, the highlight of this track personally is Dacus’ vocals, and it’s something to celebrate. Dacus does an incredible job of grounding a song with his deepest voice on this track, giving the listener a platform to stand on as the voices of Bridgers and Baker churn around them, eventually building to a chaotic climax of screaming. Bridgers. As Baker said in a Rolling Stone magazine interview‘$20’ is his comment on the discontent with life one feels at a young age, eventually becoming coherent and forming masses of one’s own political opinions within the world (“Pushing the flowers that bud / On the front of a shotgun / So many hills to die”).
Moving into the melancholic mind of Phoebe Bridgers, ‘Emily I’m Sorry’ certainly sounds exactly like any other Phoebe Bridgers song to me, something that could easily have been on any of her albums, but still acts as a heartfelt cover song. The saddest part of love. one in which you lose yourself for another person, acquiring behaviors that you never had before; For this, Bridgers is truly sorry, writing a heartfelt apology to her former lover for all these things.
‘Emily I’m Sorry’ is a cerebral experience that exposes Bridgers’ desire for greater emotional intelligence, questioning that intelligence in an attempt to become a better person within relationships. Bridgers has the guts to openly admit that she wasn’t a good partner in this situation, realizing this and wanting to create a happier story for her and Emily (“Just take me back to Montreal / I’m going to get a real job, you’ll be back.” to school”), but it’s too late for them. With more backing harmonies from Baker and Dacus, who are truly angelic, and a mix of haunting, ethereal horn sounds and muffled drums, it’s easy to see why this song would probably be one of the most popular on the album.
‘the record‘ is also heavily inspired by the popular tracks that can be found on ’60s playlists, ‘Cool About It’ being a key example of this. This track can only be described as cute, sweet, pretty. It’s a delicate track driven by the acoustic plucking of an acoustic guitar and the vocals of all three boygenius members; covering the disappointment found in the failures of love, no matter how hard you try. ‘Cool About It’ shows the narrator’s first attempts at creating love (“Asking you easy questions about work and school / I’m trying to be cool about it, feeling like an absolute fool about it”), venturing through the story of a dispassionate love, eventually realizing that they were just acting all along. In the lyric “I once took your medication to find out what it’s like / And now I have to act like I can read your mind”, the narrator speaks of a desire to know his lover inside out, but the passion just doesn’t materialize. Their hard work hasn’t paid off, and it’s time to admit that being with them is harder than not (“I’ll pretend that being with you doesn’t feel suffocating / Telling you it’s good to see how well you’re doing / Even if it’s not TRUE”).
This album also touches on the trio’s individual love with ‘Leonard Cohen’, a short but sweet love song between friends, where each other’s imperfections make them more lovable in the eyes of the other (“Leonard Cohen once said that there is a crack in everything / Thus the light enters”).
The album’s close is a gut-wrenching piano ballad that honestly brought tears to a writer who struggles to cry over music most of the time. Harking back to his previous EP following the same tune as ‘Me & My Dog’, ‘Letter To An Old Poet’ is, lyrically, an extremely sad yet beautiful song that sees Bridgers battle the hatred he holds for a past lover. Supported by her bandmates both in general and through the harmonies of this song, Bridgers talks about a man who constantly brings her down and lowers her self-esteem (“You’re not special, you’re evil / You can’t tell me to calm down / You make me feel like an equal, but I’m better than you / You should know.”) This song feels like an act of pure self-love, taking control of your life and accepting the bad things in this relationship.
It should be noted that if the number of words were not an issue, I would write about ‘the record‘ for pages and pages. boygenius have released an incredibly detailed record, rich in lyrical content fueled by the love in their lives and the desire to feel love and be loved; either romantic or platonic. ‘the record’ is truly beautiful, and the love each member has for one another is as clear as day. Calls and demands answered, boygenius has given the world an album for history.
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