by Molly Larson
Indie-pop trio boygenius continues their momentum with their third release, a small EP entitled simply the rest. This release comes only six months after the release of their first full-length album, the record, and near the end of their international tour. The band is the collaborative project of solo indie artists Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julian Baker. Before this year, the project had been dormant since their 2018 self-titled debut EP, boygenius.
So, why release more music so soon after the record instead of including them in the previous tracklist? The rest feels incredibly cohesive – the tracks share a sincerity and echoey instrumentation. It continues the general structure of the boygenius project with each artist splitting dominance over the tracklist. In the rest, the four tracks include one song where each artist operates as the lead vocalist and “Black Hole” that is evenly balanced amongst the trio. This cohesion is characteristically boygenius, but distinct from the flow and cohesion of the record which is more upbeat and rock-centered. Phoebe Bridgers echoes this sentiment in an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1: “These songs don’t belong on the record. To me, the record couldn’t be another way. I think these four, I have no idea where any of them would go in the sequence. They make no sense, but they make so much sense together. It’s really exciting.” The release overall feels like the trio is sharing a more intimate moment with their fans after the fast-paced chaos of their tour – as if to say: hey, we’ve got a little more to say – I hope you aren’t sick of us just yet. In the same interview, Lucy Dacus explained the choice as very straightforward; “I think just once we felt good about it, we wanted it out…I don’t know if it was strategic; it’s just these are songs that weren’t ready for ‘The Record,’ and then we spent time on them, and they’re ready now. Is that right?”
Boygenius has two major sides to the project: queer rock and roll and emotionally devastating ballads. The rest showcases the beauty of the latter side of the trio. “Voyager” especially demonstrates exactly what makes their group so special – the humming harmonies of Dacus and Baker behind Bridger’s lead vocals are so full and captivating, they cause the listener to hold their breath. Though different stories, “Voyager” and “Afraid of Heights” echo the same theme of power and fear in a relationship. The lyrics describe situations of men weaponizing impulsiveness and bravery in situations that could be potentially fatal. In “Voyager,” Bridgers sings “you stepped on the gas and you asked if I’m ready to die” and further describes an abusive relationship she has touched on in previous songs – but now with a greater sense of power and peace. In “Afraid of Height,” Dacus reflects “I know that I fucked up when I told you I’m afraid of heights/ It made you wanna test my courage.” This song is unequivocally Lucy Dacus and she uses her gift of storytelling to conjure a clear image, upheld by the strums of the guitar and sweeping countermelody. She reaffirms the strength in her refusal to be pushed beyond her boundaries by the figure in the story: “I wanna live a vibrant life but I wanna die a boring death.” Baker’s song, “Powers,” is the perfect bookend to the release. It features bolder guitar and pushes the beat, while sharing the EP’s characteristic introspection. The track ends with a one-minute instrumental of horns and guitar that leave the listener with a great sense of peaceful resolution.
Though it’s likely that boygenius is settling into another hiatus, the rest feels far from a farewell record. The EP reaffirms what makes boygenius special, showcasing the strengths of each member while demonstrating the synchrony of their collaboration. Despite giving so much this year – a debut album, an international tour, and now a second EP, boygenius fans are left wanting more. The only question that remains is how long they will have to wait.