Rating: NNNN (out of 5) Sound: The joyful collaboration of three top songwriters of our time bloom into chords full of optimism If you like: Big Thief, Tomberlin, Soccer Mommy Best track:Not Strong Enough
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FRIENDSHIP AND RESPECT are at the core of boygenius. The members of the supergroup formed by Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus all have successful careers in their own right, but on boygenius, they show that it’s just fun to play together as a band. Their debut full-length album, the record, shines because of the joy and support that these artists have for each other.
Fans of their solo careers are probably already familiar with their signature sounds. Their music overlaps in genre, though Bridgers leans towards the folk side, Dacus on the indie side and Baker to the alternative side of the spectrum. What they all have in common is that many fans categorize their work as “sad-girl music” because of their aggrandizing tunes and devastating lyrics.
Together, as boygenius, they might still be singing about sombre subjects, but their joined voices convey that they know they’re not alone. Most notably, on closing track Letter To An Old Poet, Bridgers makes a callback to the melody and lyrics from their beloved 2018 song, Me & My Dog. Instead of singing “I wanna be emaciated,” the song has been updated to reflect her current state of mind, simply, “I wanna be happy.”
At times, the trio let listeners in on their intimate friendship, including inside jokes and references on lines such as, “I will try to remind you of the hummingbirds,” on We’re In Love, and “I didn’t tell you you were driving the wrong way / On the interstate until the song was done,” on Leonard Cohen.
Listeners can tell which songwriter takes the lead in each song, but the finished project is undeniably a group effort. When one artist steps into the spotlight, the other two take a step back to provide harmony, voices weaving in and out to each take their turn. Their lyrical styles are distinct, coming together to create one cohesive story.
The best example of this is on Not Strong Enough, in which Bridgers sets the scene in the first verse, Baker takes hold on the second verse and Dacus anchors the bridge with her charm. Another strong collaboration is on Satanist, one of the more riff-driven songs on the record, along with $20.
It’s clear that the record is first and foremost a love letter that the boygenius members have written to each other, and the fact that they’ve become such an endeared act is just a bonus.