The indie-rock trio Boygenius released their debut album “The Record” on Friday— their five-year comeback after releasing their self-titled EP in 2018.
Boygenius consists of singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. Baker and Dacus met in 2016 after Baker spotted Dacus in the dressing room of a venue reading “The Portrait of a Lady.” They immediately bonded over literature and their Southern roots. Baker and Bridgers met a month later and exchanged literary recommendations in an email thread.
After the trio was booked together on a triple bill, they decided to head into the studio. What they thought would be just one song, turned into six. These six songs then became the Boygenius EP.
“It was not like falling in love,” Bridgers said to Rolling Stone. “It was falling in love.”
Boygenius went on a small tour in November 2018 before the trio continued to pursue their own solo ventures. Since then, the trio was constantly asked if they would ever reunite. During the 2020 pandemic, Bridgers sent the demo of “Emily I’m Sorry” to her bandmates, asking them, “Can we be a band again?”
They worked on writing in April and August of 2021, and went into the studio in January 2022 to record what would be their debut album: “The Record.”
“The Record” opens with an old-timey, acapella melody led by Dacus. “Without You Without Them” captures the longing of wanting to be part of someone’s life: “Who would I be without you, without them?”
Boygenius released three songs from “The Record” in January 2023: “$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry” and “True Blue.” Each one of these songs has a different feel, unique to each one of the boys.
“$20” is evidently a Baker song, with the soft punk and rock vibes. Baker told Rolling Stone that the song is about the “wanting-to-poke-the-bear impulse” she is trying to mitigate, and it is also inspired by Bernie Boston’s Vietnam protest photograph “Flower Power.”
“Emily I’m Sorry,” led by Bridgers, is a melancholic song about asking someone for forgiveness. It is reminiscent of a song that would appear on Bridgers’ 2020 album “Punisher.” This feeling also comes across in the song “Revolution 0.” Baker and Dacus join Bridgers in the chorus, and it’s almost like they are comforting her as they sing along.
“True Blue” is Dacus’ expression of love to Baker and Bridgers: “It feels good to be known so well/I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself.” It describes how you become your best self around the ones you love. The definition of “true blue” itself is “unwavering in one’s commitment; extremely loyal.”
“Cool About It” is a dreamy, folky tune inspired by Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” It describes a relationship in which one person wants the other to be honest about their lack of feelings: “Wishin’ you were kind enough to be cruel about it.”
“Not Strong Enough” is a nod to Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough.” In the song, Boygenius describes how they lack the ability to be what another person needs: “The way I am/Not strong enough to be your man.” The song could also be a nod to their band name, which they coined based on the high praise that male artists receive over women. The bridge repeats the words “Always an angel, never a god.”
In “Leonard Cohen,” Dacus describes a drive she took with Baker and Bridgers. Bridgers showed them a song and she got so passionate about it that she started driving in the wrong direction. Baker and Dacus didn’t have the heart to tell her until the song was over. “You felt like an idiot adding an hour to the drive/But it gave us more time to embarrass ourselves.”
Dacus refers back to “True Blue,” saying, “I might like you less now that you know me so well.” The song feels like another love song to her friends, like “True Blue” is. It concludes with all three of them singing the words “I never thought you’d happen to me.”
“We’re In Love” is another love ballad to Baker and Bridgers from Dacus. She begins the song by saying, “You could absolutely break my heart/That’s how I know we’re in love.” At the end of the song, she asks, “If you rewrite your life, may I still play a part? /In the next one, will you find me?” Dacus is saying that even if they hurt her, she still loves them and will look for them.
The album concludes with the song “Letter To An Old Poet,” in which Bridgers describes wanting to get over a toxic relationship. There is a moment at the end of the song where it parallels “Me & My Dog” from their self-titled EP. For longtime fans of Boygenius, it was a full circle moment to hear Bridgers sing the same melody from “Me & My Dog” with different lyrics.
All three members of Boygenius are amazing on their own — Baker with her gritty vocals, Bridgers with her “mellow” lyricism and Dacus with her songbird way of telling stories. However, when you combine those three elements, it turns into something magical.
“The Record” sends a powerful message of friendship. Each member has their own story to tell, but you can sense that they are cheering each other on. Boygenius tells the story of how they truly know one another — and choose to keep loving each other anyway.