Album review: boygenius

The three female indie performers come together to form the perfect melodies

Boygenius is the ultimate supergroup of female indie-rock artists. The group is made up of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, each of whom have successful solo careers as indie singer-songwriters. On the formation of the supergroup, Bridgers said in an interview with Vogue that it was largely an accident. The three artists have long run in the same overlapping circles, with Bridgers and Dacus opening for Baker on separate tours in 2016. Baker became the link between Bridgers and Dacus as she was friends with both performers. The three then decided to go on tour together in 2018 and thought that they should record some material for promotion. The creative harmony they experienced in the studio led to an overflow of songs, so they ended up recording and self-producing the eponymous EP. The EP highlights each of the individual artists’ strengths while also melding into one cohesive unit of heartfelt music and profound lyrics.

The EP opens with the track “Bite the Hand,” which slowly builds to the strong admission that “I can’t love you how you want me to.” The layered guitar pushes the song forward in rebellion against the dominant side in a relationship. The song speaks to the difficult feeling of being unhappy with someone or something that makes you feel good. This song is vocally led by Dacus, and her softer, deeper voice carries the hard emotions of the song forward while also adding an emotional heaviness and regret to the words that are being sung. Both Bridgers and Baker provide backing vocals that lift the song and dynamically add to the song on the parts heavy with emotion.

The next song, “Me & My Dog,” is led by Bridgers, who softly sings solo for the first minute and a half of the track, winding through the difficult emotions of loss and grief. The song wants to escape these difficult emotions, with Bridgers singing that “I wish I was on a spaceship / Just me and my dog with an impossible view.” The strength of the grief also comes as a bit of a surprise, with the lyrics, “I never said I’d be all right / Just thought I could hold myself together.” The song rises to a climax where all three vocals and all instruments join together at the point where the pain of loss is at its peak, where they “want to hear one song without thinking of you.” These first two songs work through feelings of loss, particularly in relationships and highlight the members’ individual strengths.

The next song, “Souvenir,” displays the power these three artists wield together. The song opens with a tender guitar melody and deep bass notes, followed by Baker’s vocals on the first verse. Baker’s verse speaks to the vapor-like nature of dreams and how hard they are to catch. Bridgers then quietly sings the second verse, leaving space for Dacus to build on the third. However, the build does not come in the form of large instrumentation, but in their dropping out and leaving Dacus alone to sing, “When you cut a hole into my skull / Do you hate what you see? Like I do.” The layers of the guitar, bass, strings and mandolin carry the song along behind the vocals. There are echoes of electric guitar that come in to finish out the song in a similar way to its start.

“Stay Down,” is perhaps the most heavy song instrumentally and emotionally. It is led by Baker, who sings of a painful relational disconnect, and builds throughout the song to the point where, paradoxically, the artists harmonize about staying down. This song is only one of two on the EP to feature keys, though keys get lost at times behind the wall of stringed instruments.

The penultimate song, “Salt in the Wound,” is driven by electric guitar and Bridgers’ backing vocals. This song was originally brought to the recording session by Dacus, and the others added to it. There are many layers to the song, from the instrumentation, to the vocals, to the levels of pain described in the song. The song sort of breaks down at the end, similar to the relationship that the song depicts. These three middle songs show off what these three artists can do together when combining their respective strengths. The result is emotionally charged and raw music that tells intricate stories of hurt and heartache.

The final song on the EP is “Ketchum, ID.” It is an acoustic song and therefore shows off the three artists’ vocals more prominently than any other song. The song chronicles a feeling of not belonging anywhere one goes. It is a fitting end to an album created entirely by women in an industry dominated by men.