Album review: “boygenius” is the saddest, most beautiful crossover event in indie music history
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus all hold the distinctive title of musicians whose lyrical honesty and passion for their art is so genuine and heartfelt that it is guaranteed to bring any listener to tears.
Baker, Bridgers and Dacus have been taking the independent music world by storm since 2015 and have all signed to major indie labels since then. Their youthfulness, talent and poetic insight exhibit seemingly endless potential. All three met immediate critical and popular acclaim upon release of their individual projects over the past three years.
The contemporaries quickly realized their similarities, especially as female musicians struggle against the current of a male-dominated industry. Donning this collective badge of honor, they connected and created a support system for one another while on tour, fostering a close personal friendship.
This friendship led to boygenius, a super-group combining the lyrical prowess, instrumental virtuosity and raw emotion of the three. The self-titled EP that resulted is a testament to their strengths as individual musicians but also their ability to highlight each other’s greatest strengths.
Opening with “Bite the Hand,” the themes of keeping one’s personal best interests in mind and fighting through conflict and/or hardship are introduced. In the chorus, the line “I can’t love you how you want me to” strikes to the heart of the lyrical self-awareness and pain featured throughout the project. The triumphant tone of the song is conveyed with the rising and swelling guitar and angelic harmonizing.
“Me & My Dog” showcases Bridgers’s confessional and humorous lyricism as she dreams of leaving the world behind on a spaceship with “just me and my dog and an impossible view.” She expresses the hardship caused by suppressing true emotions in a relationship, only leading to an overwhelming breaking point.
Each taking a verse on the third song “Souvenir,” the three flex the impressive range and power of their voices. While the song is filled with self-deprecation and pain, they manage to weave the overall track into a gorgeously cathartic experience.
“Stay Down” extends this catharsis even further and offers the resilient metaphor of learning how to physically fight to combat mind and bodily disconnect. They know that heartbreak leaves one feeling defeated and broken but they provide a strong message of hope. Baker’s vocals are nothing short of spectacular and the buildup into the crescendo of the song is goosebump-inducing, allowing the listener to physically feel the gut-wrenching inner turmoil.
Another take on relationships is featured in “Salt in the Wound,” a song about betrayal, tricks and trust issues. The final track, “Ketchum, ID,” encapsulates the sentiments and feelings of the entire group at the time of release. The gentle, finger-picked acoustic ballad is broken, vulnerable and somber, speaking to the hardships and isolation that come because of touring. The three confess to feeling disconnected from people and place alike, not being able to call anywhere home.
“boygenius” is a testament to the deserved role of women in the independent music world and a brave statement of strength in times of vulnerability that cements Baker, Bridgers and Dacus as undisputed leaders of the genre.