By Tara Bell, Second Year English
Following on from their self-titled ep, boygenius’ new album the record invites the listener on an emotional journey, delving into an intimate portrayal of the friendship between Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus.
The album begins with an a cappella track, showing the distinct voices of each artist as they melt together seamlessly, as if emerging from one multifaceted heart. Their layered harmonies follow on from the last track on their ep, ‘Ketchum, ID’, which was interwoven with feelings of homesickness, detachment, and longing. But, in ‘Without You, Without Them’, they instead move towards embracing mutual connection, imploring each other to "speak to me / until your history’s no mystery to me". It feels like the listener is being invited into a sacred, ceremonial bond.
I saw Phoebe Bridgers live last summer, and for her last song the band left the stage and the backdrop became a constellation of stars encircling her with an acoustic guitar. She sang ‘Me & My Dog’ from boygenius’ ep, dedicating it to her bandmates, as she wished they could spend more time together outside of touring.
I think this captures the essence of the record; the beauty of three best friends finally being able to create art together. The album cover flaunts the tooth tattoo they all share, as they reach towards the rising dawn – a souvenir of their eternal bond.
The track ‘We’re in love’ shows this the clearest; in Dacus’ acoustic ode to their friendship, she sings "You could absolutely break my heart / that’s how I know that we’re in love", revealing her bittersweet feelings of utter devotion. Yet, love and pain come from the same place – her happiness relies on their friendship, and this renders her vulnerable. She tenderly asks “if you rewrite your life, / may I still play a part? / In the next one, will you find me?”
The track ‘Revolution 0’ is reminiscent of Bridgers' folk-inspired album Punisher. She laments “if it isn’t love / then what the f*ck is it?”, through angelic vocals that emerge like a whisper. In the chorus, Baker and Dacus harmonize alongside Bridgers, as if reassuring her that they understand her feelings of heartache.
Boygenius take this spirit of collaboration to defy the competitive forces of the patriarchy and the subcategory of ‘sad female music’. They do not box themselves into one genre; the softer, folk-inspired tracks are balanced with ‘$20’ and ‘Anti-curse’, showcasing Baker’s incredible guitar riffs and Bridgers' guttural screams.
In the bridge of the track ‘Not Strong Enough’, they repeat the line "always an angel, never a God", referencing the hardships for women, and queer people, to hold space in the male-dominated music industry. In an interview with The New York Times, Dacus revealed that they would tell each other to “be the boygenius! Your every thought is worthwhile, just spit it out”. In the same interview, Bridgers said, “think about all the white dudes with electric guitars staring at their shoes. If there’s endless room for them, there’s endless room for us”.
In relation to their first ep, the record feels like an emotional journey. The last track reiterates the lyrics of ‘Me & My Dog’, the track Bridgers wrote tracing her feelings of all-consuming love and self-effacement; she sings “I wanna be emaciated / I wanna hear one song without thinking of you / I wish I was on a spaceship / Just me and my dog and an impossible view.” But, in ‘Letter To An Old Poet’, she instead sings, “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”. In this track, Bridgers turns towards hope and pays homage to the transformative qualities of friendship.
This is also summed up beautifully in the short, humorous track ‘Leonard Cohen’, as Dacus sings “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. At its core, the record follows Bridgers, Dacus, and Baker finding beauty in the remnants of past love gone wrong. Through helping each other to express their emotions, they are connected to the essence of hope, togetherness and belonging.
Featured Image: Chuff Media
Have you listened to boygenius?