Boygenius – The Record: Review

Entwined with the seismic grasp of indie rock’s guitar-centric oeuvre, Boygenius has found a way to bring more value than some systematic construction, especially within the areas of the choruses and bridges. Much of that comes from members Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers, who are equally adept at writing these auspiciously poignant songs that turn into something expansive from common themes it imbues, bringing dynamic lyrical and melodic depth over whimsical strings. What separates Boygenius from others is their ability to create polished production through this subtle rough studio aesthetic that pushes the instruments toward an individualized spotlight. They continuously showcase the elements of rock, conjoined through the motions of the trio’s collective musical characterizations. It gives fans a sense that each brings this unique touch, whether coming from the slower emo textures of Baker & Bridgers or the more nuanced singer-songwriter vocal aesthetic from Dacus. The vision Boygenius has is evident as it gets delivered powerfully on their debut album, the record.

The Record starts and continues innate consistency, but a little after the midpoint, some songs become modestly underwhelming. It downplays the emotionally stimulating indie vibes you’ve been vibing throughout. Though Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers can carry a song solo, they bring their flavor to differentiate the aesthetics and let them all explore different sonic foundations. We hear it potently on the dynamic slowcore/garage-rock production of “$20,”  containing a more punkish vocal aesthetic; the immediate shift from the melancholic performances that precede and succeed the track comes through naturally. Though it has its taste of melancholia with Baker’s performance in the first half, it eventually leads to a whirlwind of chaos. Becoming the opposite with many other songs, “$20” is an antithesis to the calming sense behind the buoying theme of togetherness, empathy, and individualized growth. Through it, they are using specific aesthetic bases to boast the content of the music, like with “True Blue” and Lucy Dacus’s more decompressing, and journey-weary vocals, as she laments on her journey through music and loyalty.

It’s a testament to the trio’s gifted writing, which extends beyond its emotional textures, weaving stories through beautifully direct narrative structures. Like “True Blue,” we’re given these stories that personify Dacus’s life in and around music. With “Emily, I’m Sorry,” we hear the empathy of Bridgers as she laments about a past love. “Anti-Cure” relays a story surrounding trauma as Julien Baker reflects on her near-drowning incident in Malibu. On “Satanist,” the trio looks to bring that sense of togetherness outward as it asks, “Will you be a Satanist with me?/Mortgage off your soul to buy your dream/Vacation home in Florida.” The unique tongue-in-cheek lyrics allow you to get the feeling of communication between performer and listener. It leaves us hearing these auspicious directions the music can take, especially in the one it gets intaked from listener to listener. Usually, it’s more of a one-way street, with the performer looking like the reader in your library circle and telling you these stories that offer a sense of connectivity. That connectivity allows us, as listeners, to bridge these interwoven rock styles that sometimes shift in sonic complexions, like when it goes from something more classical and poppy on “Leonard Cohen” to the more punk-infused “Satanist.” 

Unfortunately, as you’re gliding through such rich songs, you feel a pivot at “Revolution 0,” where the music becomes more of an underwhelming reflection of a slower indie rock aesthetic, except it gets carried by the writing. These songs, “We’re In Love and “Anti-Curse,” don’t always adequately reflect the gravitas of the vocals or boast the production forward, despite resoundingly deep writing, where it comes down to whether the production works for you. They become more of an embodiment of what has been heard, except not as impressive or innovative. Whereas “$20” does something intricate with the guitars and vocal arrangements, “We’re In Love” doesn’t do much beyond the ballad conjectures, as its construction isn’t as refined and more self-reliant on the acoustic strings. “Anti-Curse” goes from this decent pop-rock production (comparatively) to a more toned-down instrumentation that feels lesser than other songs following similar tempos. One of these songs is “Letter To An Old Poet,” which beautifully builds character as it balances ballad-like melodies and is more refined, especially at the end with these twinkly and fiery notes.

At 12 tracks, and 43 minutes, the record flows with a crisp and smooth pace that your first few listens will feel insightful and rewarding. This sentiment goes tenfold for fans that get these artists’ styles, especially as you hear about their growth since their self-titled debut in 2018. It doesn’t matter who you are when approaching the music because it speaks for itself in quality and through poignant and resounding poeticism. Whereas they construct these narratives with clear prose, the way it bridges together allows it to have these defining moments within the vocal performances, especially in the choruses, which balances the performers on the production and lets them feel enriched as they deliver it to you. But as you sit there, reflecting through all of it, you see the brilliance within the music as Boygenius produces a fantastic debut.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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