Killer Cuts: boygenius is Back With “the record”

After a 5-year hiatus, the indie supergroup returns with their latest album, a prime example of collaborative artistry.

Official album art

Official album art

Mariana Quezada, Staff Writer

The boys are back and better than ever. Last time we heard about the “boys” –nickname for boygenius members Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus– was in 2018. Their latest release, after their breakout self-titled EP, impishly titled “the record,” welcomes past listeners and new ones to their long-awaited debut album with open arms. With “the record,” boygenius carries out a touching and synergic musical journey.

The band was created, as Bridgers explained in a past interview with Vogue, “as kind of an accident,” when the three artists became friends after being in the same circle of indie rock acts. The band name stems from a joke among the musicians used to encourage each other to not doubt themselves and try to separate their artistry from being labeled as simply “women in rock,” which they found reductive. In a New York Times article dating from the release of their eponymous EP, Dacus elaborated saying that: “(We told each other) No! Be the boy genius! Your every thought is worthwhile, just spit it out.” Since then, the name stuck.

Why does boygenius work? Although each member’s music sounds different –  even if they’re often grouped under the big blanket of the “indie rock” genre – their personal attributes complement each other. Some examples can be Baker’s gentle voice, Bridgers’ chilling screams and Dacus’s superb songwriting. When the three of them harmonize, such as in the opening track “Without You, Without Them” or at the end of “$20,” the genius is clearly present. 

While the collaboration in the tracks is evident, the boys don’t lose their essence. Those who listen to their music separately are keen on recognizing which tracks are penned by which band member. The songs are then aptly dubbed: “the Lucy songs,” “the Julien songs” and “the Phoebe songs.” There is an allusion to the work being collective among the three of them, with the album cover being a picture of the trio’s hands together facing the sky. Simply put, “the record” is a team effort that pays off.  

The record stands out with a mix of upbeat and slow songs, and has an incredible finish. “Without You, Without Them” lures listeners into the musical journey, evoking a memory of gathering around the campfire with friends and explaining the deeply intertwined relationship of the members with poetic lyrics like: “I want you to hеar my story / And be a part of it / Thank my father beforе me / His mother before him / Who would I be without you, without them?” 

Official album art

Other stand-out tracks are “$20” with Bridgers’ trademark screams closing the track, layered over the voices of the other singers, and “Cool About It,” which details a decaying relationship, inspired by Paul Simon from the duo Simon & Garfunkel. Finally, the closing track, “Letter To An Old Poet,”  serves as a nod to older fans, as it interpolates the fan-favorite song “Me & My Dog” from their 2018 EP. The last stanza references the older song’s own final lyrics, as well as the instrumental motifs and harmonies, with the three musicians singing together: “I wanna be happy / I’m ready to walk into my room without lookin’ for you / I’ll go up to the top of our building / And remember my dog when I see the full moon,” which layered over “Me & My Dog’s” lyrics produce an ethereal feeling.

Overall, “the record” proves to showcase the best of the boys’ talent and leave their fans waiting for more. It is evident these artists work best when they work together, and they have produced a flinchingly personal album. There is also a growth in lyrics and music production compared to the EP, while still maintaining their ethos and uplifting each other through their music. After a listen, it’s like friends welcoming you back in.  5/5