boygenius Goes on ‘the record’ With Realism and Reflection

A&E editor Ella Govrik reviews the March 31 release “the record” by indie trio boygenius.

“I want you to hear my story,” indie-rock supergroup boygenius sings in the first track of their debut album “the record.”

Released March 31, “the record” demands listeners hear the vulnerable yet powerful story of members Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker’s lives and lasting friendship. A testament to the inconsistencies of love, the 12-song album draws on the trio’s trademark sincerity to explore heartbreak, friendship and growth. 

While the three artists have developed flourishing solo careers, Bridgers, Dacus and Baker came together to release their 2018 self-titled EP under the name boygenius, launching them into success as a group alongside their individual endeavors. 

“Without You Without Them,” the album’s lead-off track, is a succinct expression of gratitude. A lack of instruments is compensated by a raw three-part harmony.

“Thank your father before you / His mother before him / Who would I be without you, without them?” the group inquires.

On Jan. 18, the trio unexpectedly released the album’s second, third and fourth tracks — “$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry” and “True Blue” — as singles alongside the album’s long-awaited release date.

Along with “the record,” boygenius released “the film,” directed by actress Kristen Stewart. The near 15-minute visual comprises the music videos for the three singles.

Deviating from the soft acoustics of their 2018 work, “$20” utilizes an electric guitar, punchy drums and a screaming outro to introduce listeners to boygenius’ developed rock sound. Baker’s strong vocal lead demonstrates an advancement in artistic confidence.

“Emily I’m Sorry” brings the group’s characteristically solemn tone to the forefront. Accompanied by a subdued guitar, Bridger’s falsetto delicately delivers a self-aware apology.

“Emily, I’m sorry, baby / You know how I get when I’m wrong / And I can feel myself becoming / Somebody I’m not, I’m not, so / Emily, forgive me, can we / Make it up as we go along?” Bridgers begs.

Dacus’ resonant and full vocals shine in “True Blue.” Sonic warmth radiates from the first guitar strum, contrasting the song’s cool-toned title. 

Despite being instrumentally and melodically unassuming, unfiltered storytelling and tender admittances of love make “True Blue” far from uninteresting. Surface level analyses of romance are complicated by speculations that the song actually revolves around the trio’s close friendship.

“And it feels good to be known so well / I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself,” Dacus leads.

Calm guitar-plucking parallels somber lyrics about exhaustive one-sidedness in a relationship in “Cool About It.” Faint and flawless harmonies highlight each singer’s verse and chorus.

“Once, I took your medication to know what it’s like / And now I have to act like I can’t read your mind / I ask you how you’re doing and I let you lie,” Bridgers reveals.

“Not Strong Enough” was released as the fourth single March 1. Bridgers described the song as an investigation into self-hatred as a “god complex,” according to a Rolling Stone interview.

Bridgers fittingly leads “Revolution 0,” which closely resembles the soft sounds and themes of brokenness that permeate her 2020 solo album “Punisher.” The chorus’ discussions of loyalty linger into the bridge, imploring listeners to reflect the song’s all-or-nothing lyrics.

“Leonard Cohen” takes a lighthearted approach to examining the group’s friendship. Utilizing an anecdote shared in their interview with Rolling Stone, the trio humorously recount one of Bridgers’ driving mishaps to prove the nonjudgmental nature of their relationship.

Returning to their newfound sound, “Satanist” is reminiscent of ‘90s grunge and cements the group’s successful attempt at breaking into the rock scene.

“Will you be a satanist with me? / Mortgage off your soul to buy your dream,” Baker sings.

In true boygenius fashion, the optimism of “Leonard Cohen” and “Satanist” doesn’t last long. “We’re In Love” endearingly but solemnly reveals romantic insecurities and doubts. Dacus transforms her typical strong vocals into fragile whispers, desperately begging for an enduring love.

Paralleling imagery of drowning in the ocean in the first verse, casual realizations of character flaws and mortality build and break like crashing waves in “Anti-Curse.” 

Devastation and hope are masterfully balanced in “Letter To An Old Poet” — a sobering conclusion to “the record.” While the entire album is a clear exhibition of musical development, the 12 track is an undeniable display of unmatched artistry. 

An interpolation of the band’s 2018 release “Me & My Dog” demonstrates not only a rich understanding of how to make music, but what makes music powerful — uncensored vulnerability, thorough reflection and welcomed growth.

“I wanna be happy / I’m ready to walk into my room without looking for you / I’ll go up to the top of our building / And remember my dog when I see the full moon / I can’t feel it yet / But I am waiting,” the trio sings in the concluding lines.
“the record” is available to stream on all major platforms.

Featured image courtesy of Interscope Records.

Ella Govrik

Ella Govrik