Boygenius: The Record – Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus deliver one of the albums of the year

The band name started as a joke – each woman had less than positive experiences with arrogant male collaborators

The Record
    
Artist: boygenius
Genre: Alt.Pop/Rock
Label: Interscope

Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, each a successful solo artist in her own right, formed Boygenius in 2018. The band name started as a joke – each woman had less than positive experiences with arrogant male collaborators, the kind of man, Dacus says, who is “the archetype of the tortured genius … who has been told since birth that their every thought is not only worthwhile but brilliant”.

Cue a self-titled six-track debut EP, released shortly after the group formed, and then a few years of solo touring, Covid-19 and the subsequent relaxation of pandemic restrictions. Once masks were off and distances abandoned, there was no stopping the trio from forging ahead with recording their belated debut album. To say it’s a striking piece of work is an understatement.

Of course, it helps that the trio are all fine songwriters and performers: Baker with a heart of gold and neck of brass; Dacus with a dramatic turn of phrase; and Bridgers (the best known of the three, following her Grammy-nominated 2020 album, Punisher, and her songwriting collaborations with the likes of Paul McCartney, Lorde and Taylor Swift, whom she is supporting on her Eras Tour) with folksy melodies and yearning despondency.

There is a fusion of each of the songwriter’s signature characteristics on The Record that is a joy to listen to, but the most crucial aspects of its overall worth are the central bonds that tie the women together.


Bridgers, perhaps, explained it best when she told Rolling Stone magazine that being with her friends meant “being constantly validated that my problems are real problems … I like myself better around them.”

Such connections are filtered throughout the album in songs such as Emily I’m Sorry (”Emily, forgive me. Can we make it up as we go along? I’m 27 and I don’t who I am, but I know what I want”), True Blue (”It feels good to be known so well, I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself. I remember who I am when I’m with you”) and We’re in Love (”You could absolutely break my heart. That’s how I know that we’re in love”).

The result of such familiarity is songs that, while not ripping up any rulebooks with their casually delivered crash-to-calm-and-back-again arrangements and whisper-to-a-scream vocals, nonetheless make a meaningful impact.

The superfluous “supergroup” tag that has been bandied about since news of their formation? Ignore that description. Simply put, these three women have made an album destined to be regarded as one of the year’s best.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture