The indie supergroup, boygenius, releases “the record”

the record was released on March 31, 2023.

“the record” was released on March 31, 2023.

Emily Boyle, Eastside Features Editor

At the end of March, indie supergroup boygenius broke their five-year hiatus. When touring ended after their 2018 self-titled EP, the group only performed once in 2021, shifting focus to their independent projects. The three members of boygenius are some of the biggest names in indie, consisting of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker. It comes as no surprise that their debut album the record was an outstanding success.

the record picks up right where their self-titled left off. The acoustic track “Without You Without Them,” reminiscent of their EP’s closing track “Ketchum, ID,” displays delicate, nostalgic vocals. This mello introduction also serves to emphasize the intensity of their next track, “$20.”

boygenius expertly blends the unique styles of each member, with certain tracks highlighting their independent strengths. For “$20,” Baker’s excellence is put on full display. The aggressive instrumentals, paired with Baker’s desperate vocals, create an air of frustration specific to adolesnece. This track reaches its climax when Bridgers screams with blood-curdling ferocity, “Give me twenty dollars / I know you have twenty dollars.”

In another abrupt tonal shift, “$20” fades into the soft guitar strums of “Emily I’m Sorry.” Written shortly after the release of Bridger’s sophomore album “Punisher,” the sound fits perfectly in context of her previous work. Bridgers builds off of the frustrations presented by Baker, reflecting on how this lack of control manifests in personal relationships. It’s an absolutely gutting track, and currently maintains it’s spot as the most streamed of their entire album.

Dacus provides a much-needed breath of fresh air with her next song, “True Blue.” It’s a classic love song, but still displays the nuanced lyricism of which Dacus is known for. “I remember who I am when I’m with you,” she sings. “Your love is tough / Your love is tried and true blue.” By combining the colloquial phrases “tried and true” and “true blue,” she emphasizes the familiarity and closeness found in another person. It feels like a final response to “$20” and “Emily I’m Sorry”; amongst cosmic uncertainty is another person, who unbelievably gets it.

Lyrically, the record is a masterpiece. Bridgers’ verse in “Cool About It” displays this beautifully, with lines like, “Once I took your medication to know what it’s like / And now I have to act like I can’t read your mind.” Or the bridge in “Not Strong Enough,” as the chant “always an angel, never a god” swells into disillusioned belts.

the record is able to transition from differing sounds with surprising ease. Reminiscent of “$20,” the track “Satanist” encapsulates and expands upon the fervor of stifled individuality. Within their own verses, each member describes what rebellion means to them, ranging from Baker– a satanist, Bridgers– an anarchist, and Dacus– a nihilist. This excitement quickly fades into earnest solemnity with their next song, “We’re In Love.” Similarly to “True Blue,” this track is a Dacus-style love song. But rather than focus on romantic attraction, it articulates the platonic love the three members share.

This track is utterly devastating, but in the most stunning way possible. Dacus’s melancholic voice asks, “If you rewrite your life, may I still play a part?” as she reflects on her friendship with Bridgers and Baker.

Of course, the record is not without its flaws. Independently, tracks like “Revolution 0” and “Leonard Cohen” hold up both lyrically and sonically. But when placed beside the near-perfection of their counterparts, it’s impossible for their relative weakness to go unnoticed.

In the end, this hardly matters when the record is also home to songs like “Anti-Curse.” With some of the best lyricism of the album, “Anti-Curse” exhibits the distinct Baker angst found within her most recent album, “Little Oblivians.” She describes going to the beach with Bridgers and Dacus, and nearly drowning in the ocean. It calls upon the deep existential suffering of “Stay Down,” a track off the groups self-titled EP (“Push me down into the water like a sinner / Hold me under and I’ll never come up again / I’ll just stay down”). But unlike “Stay Down,” there is also an air of warmth.

“This is not the worst ever way to die,” Baker told Rolling Stone. “I was just having a great time on the beach with my friends. That’s like being smothered to death by puppies.”

the record is remarkable; this makes ending the album on a high seemingly impossible, given how excellent all of the previous tracks are. Somehow, they pull it off.

For old fans, it’s clear who is referenced in the title of their final song, “Letter To An Old Poet.” New listeners might not recognize the instrumental motif found in the final verse.

Since its release, “Me & My Dog” of their 2018 EP has garnered a cult following. Known for its soul-crushing lyricism, it features Bridgers belting miserably, “I wanna be emaciated / I wanna hear one song without thinking of you.” The final verse of “Letter To An Old Poet” sounds identical to the final verse of “Me & My Dog,” but the lyrics are changed. Instead Bridgers sings, “I wanna be happy / I’m ready to walk into my room without lookin’ for you.”

Bridgers, Dacus, and Baker are unbelievably talented artists, so it feels like striking gold to have their continued collaboration. With balancing the intense demands of three individual music careers, it’s unclear the role boygenius will play in their future. But as of now, the trio is alive and well, and their name rings more true than ever. the record is genius.