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boygenius provides rollercoaster of emotions fans have been waiting for with ‘the record’

Trio flaunts powerful friendship, songwriting talent in transcendent new album

<p>The secret to boygenius’s charm is best exemplified by the literal titles of their album and short film — their ability to tell things as they are packs their lyrics with a powerful emotional punch.</p><p>Courtesy of Brian Gallagher.</p>

The secret to boygenius’s charm is best exemplified by the literal titles of their album and short film — their ability to tell things as they are packs their lyrics with a powerful emotional punch.

Courtesy of Brian Gallagher.

Indie-rock group boygenius, made up of artists Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, released their long-awaited album “the record” March 31. The LP is the band’s first project together since the release of their 2018 self-titled EP. The album was accompanied by the release of “the film,” a music video combining the first four tracks of “the record,” directed by actress Kristen Stewart.

The secret to boygenius’ charm is best exemplified by the literal titles of their album and short film, which demonstrate their ability to tell things as they are — packing their lyrics with a powerful emotional punch. “the record” invites listeners to embrace their true feelings without holding back.

The trio opens with “Without You Without Them,” an a cappella track reflecting on the people and experiences that have transformed the band members into who they are today. It is a touching opening to the album, as they invite listeners to immerse themselves in the project and take part in shaping boygenius’ story.

The next three songs are “$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry” and “True Blue,” which were released as singles Jan. 18. They are followed by “Cool About It,” a folky guitar track that serves as an excellent testament to the success of boygenius’ collaborative style. Each member takes on their own verse and puts a personalized spin on the chorus, yet all of the different parts come together to form one cohesive, moving piece.


“Not Strong Enough,” which was released as a single March 1, brightens the mood with its upbeat sound. But, if there’s one thing the trio does best, it is deceiving listeners by hiding despondent lyrics underneath cheerful melodies. Ironically, “Not Strong Enough” is one of the strongest songs on the album. It is not only incredibly catchy, but it is also where Baker’s, Bridgers’ and Dacus’ vocals shine through most powerfully and equally.

The album slows down again with “Revolution 0.” Bridgers takes the lead as Baker and Dacus harmonize in the chorus. The song gently crescendoes until the outro, where their voices are joined by a symphony of strings to create an ethereal ending.

Dacus spearheads the next song “Leonard Cohen,” which offers a short and sweet reflection on the band’s friendship. She sings about an anecdote that the group shared in an interview with Rolling Stone: Bridgers was driving with her bandmates when she asked them to listen to “Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine, and she became so immersed in the song that she missed their exit, adding an hour to their drive.

The song is named after folk artist Leonard Cohen, and the group references him in the line “Leonard Cohen once said / ‘There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.’” The line suggests that mistakes, like missing an exit, can lead to unexpected happy moments that strengthen their music and friendship. The song showcases the band’s remarkable lyrical talent, as they transform a single moment into a meaningful song.

“Satanist” immediately quashes this heartfelt message with its themes of destruction. The lyrical and musical qualities of the song are similar to “$20,” but whereas “$20” is centered on the theme of self-destruction, “Satanist” summons others to join in on the carnage. Baker’s verse asks listeners to be a Satanist, Bridgers’ verse asks listeners to be an anarchist and Dacus’ verse asks listeners to be a nihilist.

One of the most interesting parts of the song is the production of its outro. As the three sing about seismic drift tugging on the listener “until it drags you under,” they repeat “you under” until their voices begin to sound muffled and distant, making the listener feel like they were actually being dragged below the ground. 

Listeners resurface with “We’re In Love,” whose title is less of a statement than it is an insistence. Here, Dacus is convincing her partner that they are in love. She vows that if the couple were to cross paths in another life, she would remind them of the love they once shared, even if her partner doesn't remember their connection.

Baker speeds things up again with “Anti-Curse.” She sings that she is “Writing the words / To the worst love song you’ve ever heard,” but “Anti-Curse” is not that — instead, it offers an honest reckoning with one’s flaws and presents a refreshing self-reflection. 

“Letter To An Old Poet” closes out “the record” with an element of nostalgia that wraps up the album perfectly. The song, led by Bridgers, is a follow-up to “Me & My Dog,” a track from their first EP. The 2018 song starts off as a happy love story but eventually devolves as the unhealthy relationship leaves the narrator wanting to escape.

The trio sings, “I want to be emaciated / I wanna hear one song without thinking of you / I wish I was on a spaceship /Just me and my dog and an impossible view.” In “Letter To An Old Poet,” boygenius hints that the subject is finally ready to face their pain head-on and not run away. The parallel lyric becomes “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.” The track ends the album on a pleasantly hopeful note.


From lyrics to melody and beat, boygenius knows how to sway their listeners’ deepest emotions. The album is vulnerable and heartbreaking, but above all, cathartic, leaving listeners feeling lighter as they walk away. 

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Daphne Dluzniewski

Daphne is an Arts & Culture writer from Austin, Texas. She is planning on studying International and Public Affairs. Her passions include cats, running and Phoebe Bridgers.

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