Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, three of the best minds in modern indie music, have come together to produce a heartbreaking powerhouse of an album with “the record,” their first album as the band boygenius. The group’s new release has been highly anticipated by fans, as boygenius hasn’t released music since 2018, with their debut self-titled EP, “boygenius.” Boygenius isn’t just a band — they are truly a supergroup. One can hope that “the record” will usher in a new era for the group and for all three artists’ individual careers.
Boygenius may get roped into the trite descriptor of sad girl music, a label that Bridgers described as “exhausting” to have pushed on her music. To chalk the group’s music up as pure sadness would be a deep disservice to the complexities of “the record.” One could dare say “the record” is more than just an album: it is a literary masterpiece. “The record” is confessional poetry come to life.
From the get-go, the listener is immediately pulled into the group members’ own pain and love. “The record” kicks off with the deeply intimate “Without You Without Them,” an a capella song that feels like overhearing three friends singing together on a summer night. The song opens with the touching lines “Give me everything you’ve got / I’ll take what I can get / I want to hear your story / And be a part of it.” From there, boygenius goes on to honor Bridgers’, Dacus’ and Baker’s stories.
While one may have a hard time picking a favorite song, as “the record” is full of beautifully crafted lyrics and melodies, one of the group’s strongest is “Cool About It.” This is where the confessional, intimate nature of the album comes through. Bridgers sings, “Once I took your medication to know what it’s like / And now I have to act like I can’t read your mind,” a wonderfully agonizing verse. “Cool About It” demonstrates an ongoing theme in “the record”: the sacrifices and pain one goes through for love. The verse refers to taking a partner’s psychiatric medication as a way of truly getting into their mind, just as listeners get into the minds of all three members of boygenius. At its heart, “the record” highlights and questions the lengths one goes to for love.
Boygenius has an immense talent for mixing lyrics with a slightly more humorous tone into their gut-wrenching music. Humorous does not mean without emotional depth, though. The tenth track, “Satanist,” is a perfect example. The playful lyrics bring listeners into the groups’ lives with, “Will you be a satanist with me? / Mortgage off your soul to buy your dream / Vacation home in Florida / The collateral, the devil’s repossessin’ from me / Tryin’ to score some off-brand ecstasy.” That playful yet heartening tone can also be heard in the song “Leonard Cohen,” one of many literary references. Dacus sings, “Leonard Cohen once said / ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ / And I am not an old man having an existential crisis / At a Buddhist monastery writing horny poetry / But I agree.” This verse is a reference to Leonard Cohen’s “Book of Longing,” a collection of poems that were primarily written during his time at a Buddhist monastery. The collection is full of themes of longing, love and reflection. Those same themes that also be heard in “the record.”
“The record” closes with “Letter To An Old Poet,” a reference to Rainer Maria Rilke’s, “Letters to a Young Poet,” a fitting ending to the very poet album. Dacus also happened to list the 1929 collection of letters as a favorite in a 2021 interview with Penguin, making the reference a very personal touch. “Letter To An Old Poet” really is the perfect end to the album, with the self-reflective lyrics “I wanna be happy / I’m ready to walk into my room without lookin’ for you / I’ll go up to the top of our building / And remember my dog when I see the full moon.” Those specific lines are a noticeable call back to “Me and My Dog,” a song on the group’s beloved first and previously only EP.
Boygenius is the soulful sapphic supergroup the world needs and their awaited return is just as exciting for fans and new listeners alike.