Phoebe Bridgers, one third of boy genius WIKICOMMONS/ By Raph_PH,

The January announcement of the record was one that brought me both excitement and apprehension: while for years I have hoped for more music from boygenius (the collaborative outfit for Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker), I could not stop myself from feeling nervous in the run up to their debut album’s release. I, like many others, have treasured the 6 tracks on their unassumingly devastating self-titled 2018 EP. Songs like “Bite the Hand” and “Ketchum, ID” rank amongst some of my all-time favourites, and listening to the EP always seemed to feel like being part of the most amazing secret club around. I was anxious as to whether the magic of their first release would still be present, half a decade later.

“The album that combines sentimental lyricism with euphonic melodies”

How misguided I was. the record is a magnificent album that combines sentimental lyricism with euphonic melodies. It allows each individual member to shine, while constantly reminding us how electric they are together. For one, the track “Not Strong Enough” allows Bridgers and Baker to take the lead on a verse each, before Dacus delivers a goosebump-inducing final chorus. At no point in the song does it feel as if anyone is treading on the other’s toes, or stealing any thunder. The three styles, sounds, and voices, meld together sumptuously.

The Bridgers-driven track “Revolution 0” replicates the blend of styles, and her effortless wit and haunting vocals carry the verses exceptionally. Her bandmates join her on the understated hook, elevating the track even more. Moments like this allow you to truly feel the friendship and trust between the bandmates. This is, effectively, the story of the entire album, both musically and thematically.

The writing on the album is a highlight, with the three artists managing to conjure meaning into the otherwise mundane. Lines like “It’s an all night drive from your house to Reno, to the T-bird graveyard where we play with fire”, on the emphatic “$20”, have a certain anecdotal beauty about them. This is a trait of each of their individual writing styles, and it shines through wonderfully on the record.

The lyricism on the album is only furthered by the dry humour sprinkled throughout. The band’s name, after all, comes from the often ridiculous mythos that surrounds the idea of the tortured male genius. The track “Leonard Cohenattests to this, in which Dacus quips about the late musician’s time spent in a Buddhist monastery, to convey how lucky she feels to have met her fellow bandmates. The album itself started out as a shared Google Drive, and the inclusion of anecdotes and in-jokes makes the album feel like a window into their relationship as a group.


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It must be said, though, that the album doesn’t quite perfect the art of the callback to the 2018 EP. The song “Anti-Curse” manages to pull it off, melodically and lyrically evoking “Salt in the Wound” in a subtle yet impactful way. The “Me and My Dog” interpolation on album closer “Letter to an Old Poet”, however, falls flat: it comes across as more kitschy than poignant, and ends the remarkable album on a dampener. While callbacks and references can be enjoyable, the record is at its best when it is exploring uncharted musical territory. And, it must be said, its best is exceptional.

With the gift of hindsight, I find the trepidation with which I approached the record rather amusing. The album bore fruit in a truly splendid way, and the sound and the lyricism of the album are captivating. I have nothing but excitement and optimism for whatever the trio decide to do next.