by Henry Shifrin
What happens when you put three of today’s most powerful and expressive songwriters in a little oasis in Malibu and tell them to create an album? Just ask boygenius about their newest release, the record. The album is teeming with creative lyricism, strong vocals, and an indescribable sense of raw emotional strain.
Collaborators Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus formed the supergroup in 2018 and released a self-titled EP to critical acclaim. Now, after the release of solo albums from all of the members, the band is back and better than ever.
The album begins with the track “Without You Without Them,” featuring an acapella three-part harmony, leaving off where the closing track from their prior release left off. The album then flows into three songs, each featuring one member on lead vocals, distinctly in the individual style of the individual members. The track “$20” in particular sounds fresh off Baker’s 2021 record Little Oblivions.
The band reunites as a trio on the track “Not Strong Enough,” arguably their most collaborative song to date. This track features a unique bridge, featuring the members repeating the line “Always an angel, never a god.” The emotion in this bridge is raw, increasing in volume and anger, before climaxing into a strong belt while Bridgers screams in the background reminiscent of “I Know The End.”
Elite lyricism runs deep through the album, but the track “Cool About It” highlights some of their best work to date. The lines “I took all your medication to know what it’s like / and now I have to act like I can’t read your mind / I ask how you’re doing, and I let you lie” paint such a vivid scene of dealing with mental health issues.
The track “Letter To An Old Poet” is another highlight, containing a direct interpolation of the group’s previous song “Me & My Dog” within the bridge of the new track. While the melody of bridge remains the same, the band changed the lyrics to reflect new meaning – Instead of escaping reality, the band is now hopeful for the future, with the last line ending on a drawn-out sour note saying “I can’t feel it yet, but I’m waiting,” echoing the sentiment that resolution may be around the corner, but for now, they wait. The song ends without a proper final ending note, adding a tangible element of waiting for something that may not occur. This idea is taken one step further on the vinyl release for the album, which features a locked groove, meaning the last note of the song will keep playing continually until the listener removes the needle from the record. This symbolic element is what keeps boygenius fans coming back for more.
The album feels as though it was created directly for the die-hard fans of the group, featuring recurring symbolism from prior group work as well as callbacks to the creators’ individual releases. Sonically though, this is a new frontier. The songwriting skills of the group has only improved since 2018, and feels much more cohesive than their last release, highlighting each member’s individual development. Finding a hybrid between each of the members’ distinct styles must not have been an easy feat, but in this release, they’ve mastered the craft. The true genius of this album will keep fans happy for years to come (although hopefully they do not have to wait five more years for a second full-length release.)