On Friday March 31, queer supergroup Boygenius — comprising indie icons Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers — released their debut album “The Record.” Their first self-titled EP from 2018 gained critical acclaim with fan-favorite songs like “Bite the Hand” and “Me and My Dog,” touching upon topics including parasocial relationships and mental health, with lyrics as emotionally devastating as each individual’s solo music. All three band members are queer women who have won over fans with their melancholy discography, and “The Record” is no different.
Its opener, “Without You Without Them,” is an acapella ballad highlighting the unity and prowess of the trio, introducing listeners to the album’s tone. At their core, Boygenius is not only a band, but also a close-knit group — a chosen family. The following track “$20” showcases the insane guitar-playing and singing skills of Baker, who takes the lead on vocals. The song seems to be a frustrated explanation of struggle and addiction as Baker sings, “Run out of gas, out of time, out of money / You’re doing what you can, just making it run.” The tune also features the angry wails of Bridgers as she pleads, “Can you give me twenty dollars? / I know you have twenty dollars.”
While most of the tracks featuring Baker take the route of angry rock ballads, the titles featuring vocals from Bridgers and Dacus are by far the most emotionally devastating. “We’re in Love” is led by Dacus as she reflects on the nostalgia she is most known for in her own work: “If you rewrite your life, may I still play a part? / In the next one, will you find me? / I’ll be the boy with the pink carnation pinned to my lapel / Who looks like hell and asks for help.” The song is a reflection of the power dynamics of love — how one person holds the power to shatter the heart of the other.
“Emily I’m Sorry” is a rollercoaster of sadness. Bridgers takes the lead on this tune, singing “She’s asleep in the backseat, looking peaceful enough to me / But she’s waking up inside a dream full of screeching tires and fire.” The track is described as being about the loss of innocence and peace when a relationship goes wrong. Many fans have speculated that it was written for Emily Bannon, a voice actress and the ex-girlfriend of Bridgers.
By far, the most emotionally devastating title on the tracklist is “Letter to An Old Poet.” All three musicians come together in swelling harmonies, closing out the album in a beautiful way. Longtime Boygenius fans will also notice the similarities between this one and “Me and My Dog.” Both tunes share some of the same instrumentals and lyrics, making “Letter to An Old Poet” widely considered to be a sister song to “Me and My Dog.” The song seems to be about a plea for long-lasting happiness in the face of mental illness and complicated relationships. “I wanna be happy / I’m ready to walk into my room without looking for you / I’ll go up to the top of our building / And remember my dog when I see the full moon,” Bridgers sings.
While Bridgers, Baker and Dacus have carved out names for themselves as some of the most prominent indie artists in the game, there is something inherently unique about the collaboration of Boygenius. On “The Record,” no artist is overshadowed by the others. Each title features the immense collective talent the group has, and the marvel of what happens when three powerhouses link up to create a dynamic that is rarely seen in music. With the sheer power of “The Record,” it’s no wonder that Rolling Stone dubbed the album an “emotional bloodbath.”