Boygenius’ self-titled EP from 2018 meanders to a close with the lines “I am never anywhere, anywhere I go. When I’m home, I’m never there long enough—” It is a frustrating ellipsis of an ending, one that complicates the artists poppier, palatable sound.
Made up of Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers – each an independent artist with considerable acclaim – came together to form a band of unprecedented star calibre. Waxing on the prickly complexity of human relationships in twisty, layered melodies, Boygenius’ work seems to function as a reflection on and response to the simple, contained observations of modern pop music.
This first official album, aptly titled the record, feels like an immediate answer to the questioning undertones haunting Boygenius’ final moments. The first number is a dive into familial history: “Speak to me (Speak to me, speak to me) until your history’s no mystery to me”. It is initially hard to access the soul-searching implicit in such a stripped-down song,in light of their meteoric success since 2018. Such internal examination can’t help but feel distant from these now-established celebrities. But as the album develops it becomes increasingly hard to resist the inspiring honesty that guides the record into uncomfortable terrain, especially for Bridgers whose own life has been unfairly litigated by tabloids.
It is tricky pinpoint which songs were written by which artist, so merged are their voices by now, like The Fates passing along a single eye to gaze at the jagged shape of their anxieties and worries. The pre-released singles are wedged in the beginning of the album, each of them are driven by a beat in a way that none of their prior work has achieved. The height of the album comes with ‘Satanist’, written by Julie Baker (a songwriter who has used her independent work to grapple with her religious past.) It is about the crumbling ruins of lost faith and features the starkest lyrics: “If nothing matters, man, that’s a relief. Solomon had a point when he wrote Ecclesiastes, if nothing can be known, then stupidity is holy.” Drawing from the world around them with an observational specificity that only true friends could share.
Boygenius are musically unique in several ways and the record compounds this kind of prowess. But more than that, they affirm the importance of musical collaboration. Each of these artists are capable of selling out venues for their own music, they know this and choose to pursue shared artistry, to impressive results. Perhaps this is a reminder that independence is not always the highest form of success, that working alongside like-minded people is the truest form of creativity.