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Album Review: ‘the record’ by boygenius

Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker experiment with a fuller sound.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

Released on Friday, boygenius’ debut LP, “the record,” elevates each musician’s songwriting mystique as they enter new sonic territories together as a supergroup.

Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, the three critically acclaimed queer female musicians in boygenius, each add a different style of “sad girl” indie rock. “the record” works, not only as a refreshing update on each young artist’s songwriting growth, but also as a guide through the grief of relationships and lost family.

In their solo careers, the three artists have each built their fan bases by writing and performing guitar-heavy ballads with weighty lyrical ruminations.

Bridgers’ soul-crushing album “Punisher” centers on an atmosphere of ominous instrumentals with devastatingly apocalyptic themes of broken relationships, sex, pain and death.

Dacus’ songs are delicately conceived and full of timeless lyrics. On her album “Home Video,” the songwriter embraces a tinge of country rock and combines it with stories about her relationships, growing up and falling in love.

Baker writes intimate songs about love and loss. She remains influenced by her Tennessee upbringing and her exit from the church. Nowadays, she writes stark lyrics examining fear and death on albums like “Little Oblivions.”

These solo endeavors, along with their boygenius output, have made each of the them into indie celebrity A-listers.

Bridgers, the most famous of the trio, has lent her talent to a few high-caliber superstars, most notably her stylistic forebear Taylor Swift.

Bridgers, Dacus and Baker graced the cover of Rolling Stone in January in promotion of “the record.” Oscar-nominated actor (and fellow queer indie sad girl) Kristen Stewart directed the accompanying short film, titled “the film.”

Together, these elegant songwriters blend their influences into emotive lyrics and sonic gloom. Baker, Dacus and Bridgers all sing lead vocals throughout the songs on “the record” as well as backup vocal harmonies that complement the overall fusion.

On their first release in 2018, their self-titled EP, the band introduced themselves as folk-influenced emotion-stirrers on songs like “Ketchum, ID.”

Now, on “the record,” boygenius illuminates their growth artistically as a band. After briefly parting ways to make more solo music, the three singer-songwriters exemplify that they learned to make songs particular to how they sound together.

Overarchingly, boygenius uses a more complete dose of instrumentation on “the record.”

“Cool About It” is an example of this complete sound. All three vocalists contemplate running into their exes over sparse instrumentals that seamlessly fit the stories together into one cohesive image.

“Satanist” especially helps cement the boygenius project as a major highlight in all the artists’ discographies. The song features satirical and playful lyrics about nihilism, anarchy and death.

All three sing, “Solomon had a point when he wrote ‘Ecclesiastes.’ If nothing can be known, then stupidity is holy. If the void becomes a bore, we’ll treat ourselves to some self-belief.”

Interestingly, the cohesive album ends with three songs featuring solo vocal performances, perhaps the three best songs on the album.

First, Dacus sings a touching love song about a lover who listens to her even when she feels “insane” on the song “We’re In Love.”

Next, Baker delivers a nostalgic rock ballad on “Anti-Curse” where, with expert lyricism, she unpacks a lost love from her youth.

Bridgers ends the album with an atmospheric goodbye on “Letter To An Old Poet,” which tells the story of moving on from a former lover (sad indie boy Paul Mescal?).

The last three tracks work to emphasize the best themes of “the record.” On their debut LP, boygenius succeeds because of their three distinct songwriting abilities, not despite them. With “the record,” Dacus, Baker and Bridgers cement themselves as three of the most prolific musicians of their generation.

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