On their self-titled debut EP, boygenius delivers a dreamy collection of saccharine, folk-infused indie rock that showcase the strengths of three stellar female singer-songwriters.
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus formed boygenius through a mutual admiration. Though all three artists are only a few albums into their respective solo careers, their distinct styles meld together effortlessly this debut, indicating a shared maturity that transcends any notion of their artistic adolescence.
Unfortunately, the notion that women have lesser musical ability is a reality that most female rock artists face even today. The world of rock is still largely governed by machismo sensibilities, and any female artist who picks up a guitar inevitably picks up a bundle of stereotypes along with it. Through boygenius, Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus intentionally appropriate masculinity to comment on this dichotomy.
A “boy genius,” according to Bridgers, in an interview with the Guardian is “the guy that walks into the room and maybe has half the information, but totally commands the room in this crazy way.”
Dacus added in an interview with Loud and Quiet that the band seeks to adopt that same energy. “Even if you think it’s stupid,” Dacus said, “just harness some of that cocky attitude.”
Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus don’t come off as cocky on boygenius, however. Instead, there is a sense of quiet resolve that pervades each song. On tracks like “Bite the Hand” and “Ketchum, ID,” their voices coalesce naturally, forming saccharine harmonies that soar over the instrumentals. Yet, as a collective, Baker’s, Bridgers’, and Dacus’ individuality shines through from track to track.
Dacus takes the forefront of the opening track “Bite the Hand.” Featuring crisp electric guitar riffs and driving drums, it’s decidedly more rock-influenced than the following songs on the EP. It’s a fitting environment for Dacus’ airy voice and no-nonsense lyrics. “I can’t love you/How you want me to,” Dacus lilts on the track’s mantra-like chorus.
On “Souvenir,” Baker’s sense of solitude takes center stage. Baker delivers a listless rumination on her own life goals, as she sings “Dream catcher in the rearview mirror/Hasn’t caught a thing yet.” Baker’s isolating lyrics and breathy voice draw listeners into an intimate listening experience, accented by a bed of woody acoustic instrumentation.
Similarly, Bridgers’ heartfelt, folk-tinged sensibilities take center stage on “Me & My Dog.” The track opens with chorus-soaked electric guitar strums as Bridgers’ reminisces, “We had a great day/Even though we forgot to eat.” Throughout the song, Bridgers’ shares an intimate story of heartbreak which concludes with an earnest wish for escape as she sings, “I wish I was on a spaceship/ Just me and my dog with an impossible view.”
Perhaps the only disappointment to be found on this EP is just how short it is. With so much creative cohesion (and three songwriters, nonetheless), it seems as if boygenius is but a fraction of what could be a formidable full-length album.
Despite its short run time, boygenius is a captivating, collaborative indie rock effort. Baker, Bridgers and Dacus are more than the sum of their individual efforts on this EP, and with any luck a full-length boygenius album will be on the horizon soon.
The Siskiyou gives this 3.5 out of 5 stars.