The Lowdown: After being approached by the same labels, releasing acclaimed albums in fairly alike genres, participating in the same tours and festivals, and steadily rising to fame in similar circles over the past couple of years, indie singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus were not only destined to befriend one another but to create together. Earlier this year, the trio formed under the cheeky name “boygenius” in Los Angeles to write and record a six-track EP in just four days. Every musician leads the vocals of one track while the remaining three sound entirely collaborative.
The Good: Each member of boygenius pushes her particular musical strengths without dampening another’s spotlight. Baker’s emo-tinged vocal rawness breaks us down and builds us up, only to break us down again on “Stay Down”. On the Bridgers-led “Me & My Dog”, the folk-inspired songwriter’s simple lyricism speaks a thousand words and experiences within brief lines like “I’m fine now, it doesn’t matter/ I didn’t wanna be this guy/ I cried at your show with the teenagers.” Dacus’ delivery seamlessly blends the hard and the soft, especially on opening track “Bite the Hand”. At the same time, the three perform together in perfect harmony, resembling a chorus of scorned angels who somehow maintain their poise amid squealing distortion and unequal romantic relationships on the EP’s powerhouse track, “Salt in the Wound”.
The Bad: boygenius is 21 minutes long — one beautiful burst that dims out as passionately as it ignited. It feels too short each and every time the refrain of “Ketchum, ID” cuts out so briskly that a sentence falls unfinished. To resolve this dilemma using any digital listening service, simply select an option to play boygenius on repeat. One will find that “Bite the Hand” fits as easily following “Ketchum, ID” as it does as the first track on the record, allowing a seemingly short EP to last as long as one sets their mind to.
The Verdict: Within such a short span of time, boygenius manages to cover universal experiences of insecurity and perpetual, sometimes funny sadness, along with more individual situations like the instability of touring, all with the same specificity, cleverness, and dreamlike melodies that could not have come from anyone else, nor could it have come from these musicians individually. Sometimes it feels like success only fuels jealousy and competition, but boygenius demonstrate that collaboration and unity can form beauty and belonging for listeners and the musicians alike. When the trio harmonize over quiet guitar, “I am never anywhere anywhere I go/ When I’m home I’m never there long enough to know,” referring to touring on “Ketchum, ID”, there is sonic proof that at least three people feel less alone than when this EP began, and that, in itself, is truly comforting.
Essential Tracks: “Me & My Dog”, “Salt in the Wound”, and “Bite the Hand”