Boygenius: 'The Record' Album Review
Four years after dropping their self-titled EP, boygenius, the indie supergroup comprised of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus delighted fans in January when they announced they would be releasing a full-length album. Considering all three of Bridgers, Baker, and Dacus' successful solo careers and troves of devoted fans, it's somewhat hard to believe The Record is the group's first full-length release. It feels as though they've been with us forever, the presumptive heirs to the throne of wistful indie rock. The Record feels like their formal coronation, offering up 12 brilliant tracks meant to tell us exactly who they are.
The Record's structure is an interesting one. Supergroups are often made up of busy musicians who bring their own, separately written songs to the table, refining and honing with their bandmates. Boygenius is no exception, but they manage to straddle that line of individuality and melding their styles together into one cohesive package. The first four songs were composed independently, and it's where each woman's unique skillset gets to shine. "Without You Without Them" opens up the album, a short Dacus composition that serves as a folksy, a capella opener that gives reverence to those who came before. The Record, at its core, is an album about relationships. Romantic, platonic, familial, as well as our relationship with the very concept of art, and the opening track introduces that theme succinctly.
Barbershop quartet-esque harmonies quickly give way to the familiar crunch of Baker's distorted guitar on "$20", a song about youthful rebellion and those we desire to share it with. Bridgers takes the helm for "Emily I'm Sorry", she who possesses the ability to fully enrapture a listener with her storytelling. All three members of boygenius are skilled songwriters, but Bridgers' lyrics allow her to spin a yarn so deftly, you're left wondering why there's a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes.
The back half of the album is boygenius at their best. As mentioned before, relationships are at the forefront of The Record, and that is an impossible subject to discuss without the three women examining their relationship with one another. "We're In Love" helps to do just that. Dacus' voice strains while singing about the ugly parts of love, while Bridgers and Baker's voices chime in. It creates a brilliant juxtaposition, with some of the most vulnerable lyrics on the album carried by perfectly layered harmonies, illustrating the strong personal and artistic bonds they share.
The Record's final track is something of a gut punch. "Letter To An Old Poet" may sound familiar to fans of the trio, as it contains a callback to an earlier song by the group appearing on their eponymous EP in 2018. "Letter To An Old Poet" is cinema in music, its lyrics building tension as Bridgers describes a toxic relationship and how the bare minimum of a man not punching her in the stomach is something celebrated in society. It soon becomes apparent that the titular "Old Poet" is Bridgers herself, reexamining the relationship she romanticized in 2018's "Me & My Dog" through an older, more experienced lens.
That's yet another one of the relationships examined on The Record, and perhaps the most important one. With their music, Bridgers, Baker, and Dacus remind us that we are our whole selves. All of our decisions, our relationships, and our influences have led us to this point, and being able to confront that reality with vulnerability allows us to truly know who we are. The Record is a deeply introspective cut, one that stays with you well past the first listen and keeps you wanting more. It is an album that has already carved out its place in the pantheon of great indie records, and for boygenius, it looks as if this is only the beginning.
The Record Full Track List
1. Without You Without Them
3. Emily I'm Sorry
4. True Blue
5. Cool About It
6. Not Strong Enough
7. Revolution 0
8. Leonard Cohen
10. We're in Love
12. Letter to an Old Poet