Boygenius reconnected to complete their first LP, boldly dubbed The Record. Fans have been foaming at the mouth for it since 2018, when Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus joined forces in a meeting of the indie minds. Their six-song EP, boygenius, played to their individual strengths while creating a fourth mind comprising soft bedroom folk crooning, fuzzy guitars, and gut-punch vocals.

In The Record, the trio’s brainchild has grown legs and is in full stride. Their respective styles ingeniously meld together, capturing the complexity of love through clever lyrics and a sublime blend of nostalgic tones.

As the opening thank you letter to the artists’ past loves, “Without You Without Them,” comes to a harmonic fade, I drift into the thoughts of my former loves. A power riff catapulted me back to the nights I would drive hours to see the friend who was “only gay for me.” 

The adrenaline I felt came back with every strum. I had to re-read “$20’s” lyrics after hearing: 

Mama told me that it don’t run on wishes
But that I should have fun
Pushing the flowers that come up
Into the front of a shotgun
So many hills to die on

This felt like finally living life outside of what family raised us to think life would look like. It becomes addicting. The song describes the pattern of escapism and coming back for more. The outro repeats the lines:

There’s only so much I can
Take a break, make your escape
May I please have $20?

Frustration builds as they ask for another $20, emphasizing the escape turned reality. The gradual build of screams fed my baby gay soul.

Inner child healing took place as the clash of the cymbals rolled into the rhythmic acoustics of “Emily I’m Sorry.” The outward apology made it hard not to think of the Emilys of my life, and the times of playing defense in relationships where there was never an offense.

Bridgers describes waking from the nightmare of a car accident followed by a sleepless night full of picturing a better life with Emily. Being as I’m a 26-year-old going through a breakup, the temptation to think about a happier time and build a new path from the restless nights hit on the head.

I recommend listening to The Record in order of song arrangement, the transitions between each seamlessly pass through.

Moving into “True Blue” and potentially my all-time favorite new love song—a love note to all the queer astrology lovers in their late twenties. The lyrics utilize popular thoughts and phrases that I have collectively heard young people say.

I can see Bridgers, Baker and Dacus sitting around writing the lyrics, repeating to each other, You fuck around and find out, while motioning in what I could only call the “little gay awkward hands,” signaling to others you are part of the bouncy energy.

It took true-blue relationships to uncover parts of myself that I hid so deep they even took me by surprise. 

boygenius

Those like boygenius, who have allowed themselves to share in this kind of love, see the beautiful light in others, taking it further by understanding the darkness that gives them the means to shine.

The fallout from a true-blue relationship could be one of the hardest to navigate. Making small talk with a person who knows you better than you know yourself is how “Cool About It” came across.

Whether I was the giver or receiver of pain, sitting with someone when we’re both hurting plays out differently on the outside than what is happening inside the minds of the two involved.

The song encapsulates the casual rekindling of two tethered and weathered souls, where nothing gets resolved verbally.

“Once, I took your medication to know what it’s like/ And now I have to act like I can’t read your mind” became my favorite line. In a single sentence, they embodied what it is like to empathize with a person’s mental health and state of being.

boygenius for L.A. Times

As proven by Billboard’s Adult Alternative Chart topper, many have found relatability in not feeling enough. Always an angel, never a God really resonates with people. A line that lived in Dacus’ notes app, has finally found its moment in the world. I am beyond thrilled to see the recognition “Not Strong Enough” has received. 

“Revolution 0” is the moment of solitude with your own thoughts—the conversation you have with what boygenius describes as the “imaginary friend.” 

Written by Bridgers during lockdown, the song is reportedly about falling in love online. Its title a likely reference to The Beatles’ “Revolution 1,” but instead of grappling with the means of collective change, we’re just trying to grapple with our own inner peace. 

Or maybe a shoutout to “Revolution 9” would be more appropriate, given its dwelling in the inner world, and the disorienting, psychedelic-like ravages of our post-COVID psyches. 

Paralleling the car accident dream from earlier in the album, “Leonard Cohen” has a light but foreshadowing spirit. “I might like you less now that you know me so well” screams out to the emotionally unavailable in this bubbly song.

This is where The Record’s story takes us to the climactic moment of “Satanist.” We have all tried to keep a dying spark alive and sometimes the only way to do that is to have fun. 

Bobby Kelly

Impulses drive what feels so right in a moment. Though it references Satanism, there is a clever nod to Solomon’s letter to Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. Followed by, “If nothing can be known, then stupidity is holy.” 

It’s all about facing the uncontrollable parts of life with enjoyment. Religion offers comfort to some to help them understand things beyond comprehension. Even as I write this review, I am simply pretending to know something, but the reality is these are just streamlined thoughts that have only the meaning you give it.

Naming the song something that sends fear into the majority of the population is a calling card for those who understand what I can only call “the secret” to life. As a former Catholic youth leader, I always questioned why we only selectively read passages from the Bible. 

After reading the same messages every year, I felt like there was something more to understanding the world that I was missing from the afterschool “holy” lessons. We missed these letters in these lessons, so thank you boygenius for the awareness of their significance.

After falling in love with a witch, the world seemed holy for the first time. This is where boygenius took me with “Satanist.” 

It has been a long time since a newly released song has made me cry almost every time I listen to it, but, boy, was “We’re in Love” genius!

If I could tell you how many times I have tried to write a song about someone I recognized from a previous life, nothing would fully fit the ethereal feeling of recollection that sweeps over your whole being. “We’re in Love” nailed it. 

The heartbreaking part of this existence is sometimes you aren’t meant to be on each other’s paths for the current timeline, but boygenius wrote words of hope for another chance that will be given in the next intertwining incarnations.

There is something about you that I will always recognize,” as their soul waits for them in the form of a boy with a pink carnation. This broke me. Just to be clear, I rarely cry but this emotion is one I hold dearly to my heart.

After losing my dad almost ten years ago, the thought of meeting him again in another life is something I value. I have feared finding a deep connection with anyone for all this time because I saw how my mom’s heart shattered when he left the physical plane. That landed me into a lot of the chaos this album described early on. 

The kind of love that boygenius describes in The Record, even when it hurts, is worth finding than to never experience it at all. “You could absolutely break my heart/ That’s how I know we’re in love” is the kind of love worth risking the pain for, you will always be left with beautiful memories.

Sometimes it is too much for people to comprehend a soul’s awareness of the other. I won’t pretend I know how that works, but I’m glad others like boygenius are out here trying to process the convoluted patterns of life and getting the best brain-downloads for the music they create.

boygenius for Rolling Stone

After listening to the album this far, I felt that I had lifted a curse. “Anti-Curse” implied that writing this album had to be healing for the members of boygenius. To sit and process the experience cataloged by the album is a mark of true artists.

The best art is the most vulnerable and real, The Record is filled with what I only share with my personal entries. The three lyricists put all their power into this and whether they saw it as the “anti-curse” or blessing, sharing what they did not only healed themselves but also their listeners.

“Letter To An Old Poetry” concludes the story as the protagonist learns to let go of the love that haunts every room they step in. Letting go of the memories attached to a place has been one of my biggest challenges. 

I couldn’t tell you who this letter is for, but I know whoever it was written about definitely knows it is all about them by now. This calm lullaby exit paints the final fight before the end. 

“I should have left you right there with your hostages, my heart and my car keys,” sung so beautifully while the three harmonize. The juxtaposition of the high energy of a bitter ending with the sounds of a gentle descent is the chef’s kiss to wrap the story up.

No doubt their solo projects are always going to shine, but this collaboration boygenius has gifted audiences will prove a timeless album that lives well beyond 2023. 

 Shervin Lainez

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