Clarissa Tan

Jan. 18 was a huge day for the subset of Yalies who: a) are platform-Doc Marten wearers b) are people with radio shows and/or c) were excruciatingly bad at middle school P.E. (Let the record show that I was actually AWESOME at badminton).

boygenius, the collaborative brainchild of indie wunderkinds Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, released their first new music in over four years last week. The project, a precursor to a March 31 album entitled “the record,” features three singles.

boygenius’s last – and only other – release was the 2018 EP “boygenius,” the product of a shared tour between the three artists which garnered massive critical acclaim after its release. In fact, listeners’ greatest complaint was that they wanted more. Paste Magazine’s Ellen Johnson explained in a contemporary album review, “the debut from rock supergroup boygenius has only one real flaw: it’s much too short.”

Cut to five years of silence – if you can call successful LPs from each of the three silence. Bridgers’s spookily perfect “Punisher” was released during the long, hot COVID summer of 2020, Baker’s lacerating “Little Oblivions” left its searing mark on the Spotify account of every ex-emo kid in February of the following year, and Dacus’s lovely, honest Home Video seeped painful nostalgia into the early summer of 2021.

And then, like a beacon of light shining down unto Yale’s most openly mopey (think: everyone you know who’s a little “too” excited to see Big Thief next week) ((think: again me)), boygenius’s named popped up on Coachella’s setlist on Jan. 12. Then came an EP, and the simultaneous promise of a full-length album – a feat the trio have not yet attempted together.

One of the most unbelievable trivia pieces about boygenius’s first album is the brevity behind its conception: due to scheduling constraints, the three women wrote six songs in four days. 

I have listened to them at least once a week for the last four years. The burning emotional rawness that infuses each of the women’s works with an explosive catharsis builds upon itself when they combine their voices – and the chips on their shoulders.

This time around, each of the three wrote their own song and sent it to the others to be collaborated on, making each song appear a microcosm of the artist’s larger oeuvre.

Baker’s punchy electric guitar and wavering melody intertwine with Bridgers’s dramatic, crescendoing screech and Dacus’s steady croon in the EP’s first track, “$20.” This song was Baker’s brainchild, and a description of her childhood outside Memphis. The lyricism serves as a welcome break from the boohoo-box Baker is often placed in by critics and fans alike; rather than lamenting the present, Baker looks back on the past. Implicit therein is an appreciation of how she has grown and changed, a nod toward forward momentum that Baker sometimes avoids.

“Emily I’m Sorry,” Bridgers’s contribution, comes next. The soft folk guitar and ethereal background music make the song sound as though it could have come directly off “Punisher,” and as a major Bridgers fan I was a bit underwhelmed at the song as a piece of the EP. The lyricism is gorgeous, as is Bridgers’s singing, but Dacus and Baker are underused as backing vocalists. Moreover, the explicit apology Bridgers likely makes to Emily Bannon, whom she was rumored to be in a polyamorous relationship with alongside Chris Nelson in 2018, feels outdated – the relationship ended in 2019. Given the enormous commercial success of “Punisher,” perhaps Bridgers has found a playbook to stick to – for the sake of the album, I hope not.

Dacus’s “True Blue,” an ode to the kind of unconditional, lived-in love that comes without competition or fear, is straightforward and cutting in its lyricism. Baker and Bridgers cycle in at various points, creating a melodic variety that carries the simple tune to a soaring finish. Upon multiple listens, this song has emerged as my favorite, and it is a reminder that a song requires no bells and whistles to communicate a fundamental truth. “And it feels good to be known so well,” Dacus reminds. “I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself.” Dacus’s voice itself is clear and without pretension, the perfect medium for her message. The song is a triumph.

The missing piece of the EP, and the promise it makes for the album it hints at, is the unpredictability of the three women working as a unit. Each is a great artist in her own right, and has shown so in the intermediary period since the release of boygenius’s last EP. What remains to be seen is whether they can combine these newly-refined talents into an LP that celebrates them as a unit, rather than as disparate entities piled on top of one another. I am excited to find out.

Miranda Wollen is the University Editor for the News; she also writes very silly pieces for the WKND section. She previous covered Faculty and Academics, and she is a junior in Silliman College double-majoring in English and Classics.