The idea of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus forming a band and releasing a great EP almost sounds like a joke. While each is distinctive from the next, they’re all within the same ballpark; it’s sounds too good to be true. Also, this record is the real fucking deal. It wouldn’t be a shocker if it was a cheap cash-in EP for a massive tour, but it’s an unbelievably dynamic record. If each of these women wanted to quit their solo careers and just focus on boygenius, I’m sure it would be just as compelling. What makes boygenius an engaging listen is the exact same thing that makes each singer’s solo albums engaging, they’re strong women who find that strength in being vulnerable and emotional.
All three of the songwriters have flirted with anthemic textures, but boygenius is packed with songs that are designed to be played to huge rooms and sung along to. The Julien Baker-led “Stay Down” sees the band using post-rock atmosphere as the song swells. It’s the time Baker’s most felt like a true rock singer, even more so than on some of the louder numbers from 2017’s Turn Out the Lights. Lucy Dacus’ “Bite the Hand” sounds like it could’ve just as easily been a cut from No Burden or Historian, but the added vocals from Baker and Bridgers gives it a new depth and a feeling of solidarity as it’s the type of rocker we’ve come to expect from her. Even “Salt in the Wound,” which begins like a waltzing ballad, builds to a swelling chorus of distortion to a point where it’s hard to find a point of comparison. These hyper-emotional anthems are best shown in Phoebe Bridgers’ “Me and My Dog.” Possibly her best work yet, she fantasizes about escape while giving one of the albums most driving choruses.
Boygenius is very much a product of the women who created it. The album is deeply personal, often very sad, and sometimes nostalgic. “Ketchum, ID” sees the girls exploring folk and gospel á la The Everly Brothers. It examines the sinking feeling of how home never will feel like home without staying for a long time. Each verse explores this feeling of being lost and not navigating life. This sense of being lost is relayed on “Me and My Dog.” When Bridgers sings, “I cried at your show with the teenagers,” it stings any person who’s held onto music they feel too old for and relate to. Sometimes the devastation comes in cliches like when Baker sings, “Being in love is the same thing as being alone.” It’s a lyric that sounds so juvenile, but Baker closes her verse saying, “I’m sorry I do not know what else you want from me.”
This isn’t really a “Girl Power” record. Even though there have been tons of great albums to come out by women in recent memory (see: Camp Cope, Diet Cig), boygenius write songs that are only personal, and it allows it’s artists and listeners to feel lost, confused, or upset. There isn’t a song like “Woman” or “The Opener,” there are just songs that are solely about the artists. It’s a safe space. The songs are apolitical other than the fact that it shows women don’t need to always be these beacons of strength. Women are just as strong when expressing emotion, as the emo boys who get praised for breaking a masculine stigma. There’s a strength in feeling, and that’s why boygenius is one of the year’s most compelling releases.