An absolute delight, the first full-length album from singer-songwriter supergroup boygenius (Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker) truly plays to its members’ individual and collective strengths. (Credits extend to Autolux’s Carla Azar on drums and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte on bass.) Each is allowed to shine equally, taking lead on their own songs—but also bring out surprising, shining qualities in the others. “True Blue” sounds like a track from one of Lucy Dacus’ solo records, filled out with pure harmonies and grand, low-key drama. Dacus is brilliant at pinpointing fine, evocative details—bandmate Phoebe Bridgers says of her, “Lucy’s a noticer”—and there’s no shortage in this tale of real, messy friendship that thrills and bruises: “When you moved to Chicago/ You were spinning out … When you called me from the train/ Water freezing in your eyes/ You were happy and I wasn’t surprised.”
boygenius – Not Strong Enough (official music video)boygenius
Julien Baker’s vibrant “$20,” likewise, delivers her tradespan nervous edge, but the trio take it to unexpected places: First, Bridgers and Dacus thread a gossamer string of ethereal sweetness through Baker’s earthiness; later, the three sing over each other in a glorious round robin of conversation until Bridgers, desperate to get her message across, shreds her throat raw yelling out “Can you give me $20?!” They trade lines on “Not Strong Enough,” playing around with Cure guitars (acknowledged in Baker’s verse: “Drag racing through the canyon/ Singing ‘Boys Don’t Cry’”) and interpolating Sheryl Crow (“Not strong enough to be your man/ I tried, I can’t”). That one builds to an excellent ‘80s anthemic bridge, with the three chanting “Always an angel, never a god.” “Cool About It” summons a Simon & Garfunkel-style folk melody and layers on 2023 cleverness with thoughts like, “I took your medication to know what it’s like/ Now I have to act like I can’t read your mind.” “Satanist” delights in off-kilter and herky-jerky chords à la early Weezer, before sliding sideways into a woozy dreamscape. Even a tossed-off lark like “Without You Without Them”—with sweet, a capella Andrews Sisters harmonies—charms.
Bridgers’ “Emily I’m Sorry” is particularly moody and moving, while stoic “We’re in Love” is a stark portrait of Dacus and a guitar for nearly eight tear-jerking minutes before the others float in for support. Perhaps the most revealing is “Leonard Cohen,” so intimate you can hear fingers sliding on strings. It’s a true story about the trio’s friendship and a time Bridgers was so excited to play an Iron and Wine song for her bandmates that she lost track of her surroundings. “On the on-ramp you said/ ‘If you love me you will listen to this song’/ And I could tell you were serious/ So I didn’t tell you you were driving the wrong way on the interstate/ Until the song was done,” Dacus sings, before showing off their grateful love for each other: “Never thought you’d happen to me.”