Review: boygenius – the record

A lot can change in 5 years. Since releasing their debut self-titled EP back in 2018, the members of boygenius have had a lot going for them; Lucy Dacus released her third album Home Video, conceptualised on the feeling of thinking back to your childhood years once you actually realise your childhood is over, Julien Baker released her second album Little Oblivions, which gave her the first Top 40 release of her career thus far, and Phoebe Bridgers released her incredible sophomore album Punisher, which catapulted her to worldwide fame, as well as releasing a record with Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes under the name Better Oblivion Community Center. But fast forward to 2023, and here we finally are with the release of their debut record, coincidentally titled ‘the record’. The trio did well to keep the recording of this album a secret, as the internet was completely oblivious to it until November 2022 when they were spotted doing a photoshoot together. And ever since the cat was let out of the bag, the debut album has become one of the most highly anticipated of recent years.

The album begins with a hauntingly beautiful a cappella track titled Without You Without Them, where Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus harmonise in a glorious and heavenly fashion in what sounds like a kitchen/hallway, before leading into $20, a punchy indie rock song. It’s such a great introduction to the record and one that will capture the attention of listeners everywhere and hold them in close. We are treated to song after song of indie rock goodness, with the help of songs such as Not Strong Enough, Emily I’m Sorry, and more, including another brief interlude with the track (not the person) Leonard Cohen, until we get to the album’s finale Letter to a Dead Poet. A 3-minute story of a toxic relationship in which the man is being a prick and the woman cannot leave, Phoebe takes the mic for this track and paints the picture in a melancholy and sombre way. I can vaguely hear a resemblance to their 2018 EP track Me & My Dog on this one, perhaps this is a subtle callback to the origins of the group.

A definite standout track, to me, is Satanist – a song that really should’ve been a single and totally could’ve been. It includes easily my favourite lyric on the whole album, “Solomon had a point when he wrote ‘Ecclesiastes’ / If nothing can be known, then stupidity is holy”, truly hitting home on the track’s theme of feeling nihilistic. And I can’t forget Cool About It either, a beautiful acoustic 3-minute track where every minute, a different member takes the mic for their own verse and chorus, à la Haim’s 2020 track Hallelujah. The banjo you hear in the background gives the song more of an Americana/country feel which really pairs well with its lyrical content and creates a nice break from the indie backdrop.

There are so many little details that I have observed and adored throughout my playthrough – one example being in Emily I’m Sorry, where Phoebe’s line “we get worn out in the freezing cold and just get lost” literally does get lost in reverberation, and another example is in Revolution 0, where the fade out at the end of the song begins, only for it to come back in – this time with strings, making the song sound more ethereal. The lyricism on this album is smart and dark; like on the penultimate song Anti-Curse where Julien sings “Salt in my lungs, holding my breath / Making peace with my inevitable death”, or on Not Strong Enough, where the hook “Always an angel, never a god” repeats for a good half minute, with the 3 members all harmonising with each other, while also starting to gradually and dynamically build up to its final chorus.

To say that the resulting tracks lived up to the hype is an understatement – it blew my already high expectations out of the water, creating a record that is full to the brim with musical bliss, and one that will no doubt be deemed a classic in the years to come. The power that these 3 women have is, simply, incomparable. You’re left wondering why they were hesitant to even record their 2018 EP in the first place, as they went into the sessions only thinking they were only going to record ONE song! They work so well and sound so good together, creating this mutual dynamic that few groups can achieve nowadays. If ‘the record’ is the start of something beautiful, then bring on ‘the sophomore record’.

Purchase the record, here.

Watch ‘boygenius: the film’ directed by Kristen Stewart, here

Review – Joe Richardson

the record album art, and portrait photo credit: Matt Grubb

UPCOMING UK TOUR DATES:

UK DATES
August 20 – London, UK – Gunnersbury Park & ~
August 22 – Halifax, UK – Piece Hall ~ *SOLD OUT*
August 23 – Halifax, UK – Piece Hall ~
August 24 – Kingston Upon Thames, UK – Banquet Records Outstore at PRYZM Kingston *SOLD OUT*
August 24 – Kingston Upon Thames, UK – Banquet Records Outstore at PRYZM Kingston *SOLD OUT*
August 27 – Edinburgh, Scotland – Connect Festival

^ with MUNA and Ethel Cain
% with Ethel Cain

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