Happy Monday, bibliophiles!
It’s finally here! The moment that I’ve been patiently waiting for…
After I discovered Phoebe Bridgers back in early 2020 (before it all went wrong), my boygenius revelation came soon after (right around when it really all went wrong). Not only was it my gateway to Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, but it stood out as a representation of so many things—a critique of the pedestals we tend to reserve only for male artists, the way the music industry often lumps together “women in indie rock” simply because of their gender, and the magic that happens when three incredibly talented queer women get together and make music. Their self-titled EP, released in 2018, seemed to be the beginning and end of their relationship, but they secretly reformed and came together to release their first full-length album this March. And the results are simply magical, full of different highs and lows, but emotional and heartrending all the way through—in the best way.
Enjoy this album review!
THE RECORD – BOYGENIUS (album review)
Release date: March 31, 2023 (Interscope records)
TRACK 1: “Without You Without Them” – 8.5/10
never underestimate the power of an intro 🥲
If the record encapsulates the friendship of Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus, then this song is the perfect summation of that thesis. boygenius have made me so emotional over a cappella, somehow—their harmonies, pioneered in this case by Lucy Dacus, rise in perfect tandem, as each one thanks their parents, and their parents before them (“who would I be/without you, without them?”)—for the opportunities that brought them together as friends, by a cosmic miracle, and relishing in the quiet moments opening up to one another. Already a hard-hitter, and we’re barely even a minute into the album…
TRACK 2: “$20” – 9/10
Mama told me that it don’t run on wishes, but that I should have fun,
Pushing the flowers that come up
Into the front of a shotgun…boygenius, “$20”
Rocketing from the quiet moments to a supersonic pace, “$20” remains one of my favorite songs on the album, even after everything else came out. Every lyric is delivered like a punch while grinning, each member’s voice coalescing and pulling apart at just the right moments, fading in and out of sync in perfect deliberation. Everything erupts with Phoebe Bridgers’ final scream, which remains one of the highlights of this album, where all of the pent up energy in this song bubbles to the top and fades out just as quickly. HAAAAAAAGH I STILL CAN’T STOP LISTENING IT’S BEEN LIKE 2 MONTHS
TRACK 3: “Emily I’m Sorry” – 8/10
This was my least favorite of the singles, but it’s still a beautiful heartbreaker of a song—like much of Phoebe Bridgers’ work, the instrumentation (which I still love, especially when everything seems to dissolve at 1:46) takes a backseat to her air-light, heartstring-tugging voice, and lets her shine. It just feels less cohesive as a supergroup—I get that all of the members had their songs that they wrote on their own, but this feels more like a Phoebe Bridgers single that just happens to feature Baker and Dacus than a boygenius song. It’s worked with some of the other songs in that style, but I feel like this would’ve worked better as just Phoebe Bridgers.
TRACK 4: “True Blue” – 8.5/10
And it feels good to be known so well
I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself…boygenius, “True Blue”
Hooooooooowhee, we’re back to Lucy Dacus throwing her whole fist into my chest and tugging at the heartstrings, huh? Is that what we’re doing?
Although (almost) nothing compares to the meteoric ecstasy of “$20,” “True Blue” is still a steadfast favorite of mine on this album. It’s a case study of how perfect the harmonies of these three are for each other. The way that Baker and Bridgers chime in on the bridge always makes my heart sing, as though they were somehow predestined to have this pairing of differently gorgeous voices, all joining hands in another ode to their mutual friendship.
TRACK 5: “Cool About It” – 9.5/10
But we don’t have to talk about it,
I can walk you home and practice method acting,
I’ll pretend that being with you doesn’t feel like drowning…boygenius, “Cool About It”
This one rapidly rose to become my favorite on the album, and I’ve had it on repeat ever since. boygenius is versatile in the way that they organize songs together—sometimes it works with all of them singing at once, as in “$20,” but neatly-sectioned songs like this one, where each of the members gets their time in the spotlight, works just as well as the other. And this one’s the shining highlight of the album, a Simon & Garfunkel-inspired, introspective reflection on the complicated feelings of confronting people who were once prominent in your life—not being able to deny their toxicity, but grappling with not being able to outwardly show it. Each facet of their lyricism shines—Baker’s ability to dig directly into the emotional core of these feelings and making it look easy, Dacus’ dry but solemn display of wit, and Bridgers’ vulnerable confessions steeped in glistening stars. I have nothing but love for this song.
TRACK 6: “Not Strong Enough” – 7/10
Strangely, this was one of my least favorites of the album—the lyrics remain incredible (and the music video is so sweet 🥲), but there’s a country-pop twang to this one that doesn’t quite hook me all the way. There’s no denying how wonderful the ending is as Lucy Dacus builds up the bridge—”always an angel/never a god,” which all comes crashing together as we get another fantastic Phoebe scream.
TRACK 7: “Revolution 0” – 7/10
Though this one doesn’t hit me as hard as some of the others, Phoebe’s soft introspection truly shines on this song. The barely audible strings and the fluttering, dissolving synths make for an atmospheric song that feels like the musical equivalent of watching the sunrise on a crisp, winter morning. I can practically feel my breath fogging out before me, just as all three of their voices seem to gently drift into the air.
TRACK 8: “Leonard Cohen” – 6.5/10
Though Lucy Dacus’ lyrics are still funny and tender at the same time, this song feels oddly disjointed to me. Dacus’ voice comes in at a sudden, weirdly-placed time, and it doesn’t seem like it’s no purpose. Again: lovely lyrics, but the song never quite picks itself up from that initial, rocky start. I hate to say it, but maybe it’s for the best that it’s so short.
TRACK 9: “Satanist” – 8.5/10
(do I get something for being the 666th like on the lyric video for a song called “Satanist”?)
(STOP TRYING TO AUTOCORRECT CRED TO CREDIT SHUT UP SHUT UP)
One of my favorites after the singles, “Satanist” is proof that the neatly-sectioned format of letting each member sing a verse is a perfect way to let them all shine through! With Julien Baker’s witty lyrics and punchy guitars all the way through, it’s just a lovely chunk of indie rock all the way through. The ending, though drastically different, is just as wonderful, with all of their harmonies rising up like bonfire smoke into the night sky.
TRACK 10: “We’re In Love” – 8.5/10
If you rewrite your life,
May I still play a part?boygenius, “We’re In Love”
Ow, did Lucy Dacus just get saddled with all dealing all of the emotional damage on this album? Does she just have a huge paddle that she’s just musically whapping us with? If that’s the case, “We’re In Love” was what knocked me off my feet for good…ouchie
Nearly 5 minutes long, “We’re In Love” presents Lucy Dacus and company ruminating on the nature of their shared friendship once more, reflecting on inside jokes and quiet moments spent together, and loving every inch of each other despite their flaws. Even outside of their cosmically aligned harmonies, it’s clear that boygenius have struck something truly special with their friendship, a connection that has allowed them to grow and produce no shortage of beautiful, creative works, and get to know each other better through it. It’s gorgeous…get out the tissues.
TRACK 11: “Anti-Curse” – 8/10
Turning back to the more fast-paced side of “Satanist,” “Anti-Curse” has Julien Baker letting loose once more. Though I enjoyed some of Baker’s other tracks more, it still has that raw vulnerability that endeared her to me when I first became a fan, but with the expansion of her more vast, Little Oblivions sound that gives everything even more weight. It feels like the whole song is painted in the same colors as the album color, with sunsets, breaking waves, and the taste of salt in your mouth.
TRACK 12: “Letter To An Old Poet” – 8.5/10
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 I’ll think of my dog when I see the full moon.
I can’t feel it yet,
But I am waiting…boygenius, “Letter To An Old Poet”
Oh, so I see they let Phoebe Bridgers have this one tearjerker, and she took the opportunity and RAN with it? YOW.
I can’t think of a more fitting closer for the record. The whole song acts as a sister song to “Me & My Dog,” off of their self-titled EP, a reconciliation not only with the complications of a past relationship, but of a desire to heal oneself, move on, grow, and confront the truth. It’s clearly personal to Phoebe, but it feels like a collective healing call for all of them, a promise that the past is the past, but that we are all different people than who we once were. Every re-worked lyric acts as proof of change, a renewed mindset, and of hope that the future will be better while stargazing. Gah. Beautiful end to a beautiful album…
I averaged out all of the ratings for each track, and it came out to about an 8.1! I’m so glad that they decided to make a whole album—through all of the highs and lows, it displays their talents as individual musicians and as a collective creative force, and I’ll never get sick of their heavenly harmonies. And above all, it stands as a tribute to queer friendship, and every kind of love that we share, no matter the feelings that we associate with it. I’m sure it’ll be one of my favorite records of this year, without contest.
Since this is an album review, consider the entirety of the record to be today’s song.
That’s it for this album review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!