Boygenius
Boygenius


3.5
great

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
October 29th, 2018 | 136 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Supergroup meets expectations but fails to exceed them.

Listening to boygenius, the new “supergroup” project of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, has made me reevaluate what I wanted to hear from such a collective. I enjoy all three artists individually, so the news that they were forming a band was very exciting. But did I want their music to sound like their solo albums? Or did I want them to combine their talents to create something none of them have done before? Before the EP’s release, I would have said that I would be content with the former, but after hearing it, I can’t help but wish for the latter.

The three band members exulted in their newfound collaborative spirit in the weeks leading up to boygenius, but frankly, the EP doesn’t sound collaborative enough. The songs weren’t really written from start-to-finish with input from everyone; rather, even the most unfinished tracks already had their bones. Thus, it is not nearly as fun as it should be to pick out the songwriters’ individual DNA strands in these songs. “Stay Down” and “Souvenir” sound like Julien Baker songs and “Me & My Dog” sounds like a Bridgers song. It’s the same with Dacus’s “Bite the Hand” and “Salt the Wound”. The addition of backing vocals or having someone else sing a verse here or there doesn’t really change that, and I don’t really hear anything that couldn’t be accomplished on a solo album with overdubs. “Ketchum, ID” is probably the most “CS&N”-like of all the tracks, living up to the album cover homage with its acoustic backing and lilting, three-part-harmony chorus. However, everyone’s solo verses sound better than the chorus, which is merely blandly pretty and has a volume that doesn’t quite match with the austere verses.

Still, there are brilliant and beautiful moments in every song. All the members are good songwriters, but their vocals are what shine the most throughout. Contrary to pre-release grumbling about Dacus’s involvement, her songs are the most uniformly excellent. Perhaps it is her deeper, resonant voice that lends itself to Baker’s and Bridger’s higher registers, or maybe her more conventional indie songwriting is inherently more suited to vocal harmonies, but “Bite the Hand” and especially “Salt the Wound” are stunning. Instead of simply trading verses, Baker and Bridgers accentuate Dacus’s voice, either responding to her calls in “Bite the Hand” or dancing atop some of her best lyrics in “Salt the Wound” (“Trick after trick, I make the magic/And you unrelentingly ask for the secret”). In fact, I would say that this EP is the best vocal showcase yet for all of boygenius. Perhaps there was healthy competition, or maybe they brought out the best in each other, but they all seemed to have pushed their singing further than I’ve heard before. Baker’s vibrato is more prominent than it has ever been, Bridgers plays up her warm tones and is, frankly, a little underused, and Dacus pushes her voice to heights rarely heard in her solo music.

But musically, the release doesn’t live up to the promise of the vocals. There’s not much here beyond standard indie. Nonetheless, it is very pleasant to listen to. Baker shows off some great banjo and mandolin skills, and I hope she uses them in her solo music someday. A violin flits around “Souvenir”, seemingly lifted from Stranger in the Alps. Bridgers described Baker’s “Salt in the Wound” solo as “cock-rock” in an interview. That’s not really an apt description. In fact, there is hardly even a guitar solo in that song, but it’s still nice to hear them switch it up a little bit. In the end, they might have done better to go full-on CS&N. Instead, boygenius makes too many concessions to the solo work of its members when they could have been so much more.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Illume
October 29th 2018


11 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Every song is pretty average except for Me and My Dog and, imo, Julien Baker's voice does not compliment the other two vocalists well.

luci
October 29th 2018


10123 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

they’re too stylistically similar for the combination to bring out anything interesting

NorwichScene
October 29th 2018


2698 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Between a 3 and 3.5. Bite the hand doesn’t do much for me

bowlermicah
October 29th 2018


40 Comments


I actually really liked this. Salt in the Wound is the highlight. I feel like Dacus and Baker are pretty easy to distinguish, but outside of Me & My Dog, I don't hear Bridgers too often.

Hawks
October 29th 2018


62423 Comments


Gonna jam this hard. Been hearing mixed opinions on it.

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Clumseee
October 29th 2018


1177 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is great.

AdolfChrist
October 29th 2018


17940 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

man, the average is a little lame.

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theBoneyKing
October 29th 2018


15485 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I had a pretty revelatory listen to this today, it's great stuff.

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mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2018


214 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

rowan's 2.7 is brutal

Cormano
October 29th 2018


1305 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I live for Stay Down

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 29th 2018


28373 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

I agree with this in every way

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AdolfChrist
October 29th 2018


17940 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Bite the Hand and Stay Down are my favs.

neekafat
October 29th 2018


12984 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Still an easy four, I just loved the first three released so much I could never like the next three as much

Plus there's too much Dacus not enough Phoebe

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2018


23857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Stay Down is prolly my favorite Baker song

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granitenotebook
October 29th 2018


781 Comments


i haven't agreed this much with a review in a very long time

neekafat
October 29th 2018


12984 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I mostly agree yeah, still super pumped to see them live, esp Bridgers

Wildhoney
October 29th 2018


267 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They played this one way too safe. I'd still like to hear more from them though, and thankfully it seems like they're going to keep the band alive.

neekafat
October 29th 2018


12984 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'd agree, overall the new ones especially don't come off as if they're stretching as far as they made it seem

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
October 29th 2018


2611 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"the new ones especially don't come off as if they're stretching as far as they made it seem"

IMO Salt in the Wound and Ketchum, ID are the only ones that attempt to even do so; the first three singles were practically solo tracks from the each of them + some backing vocals.

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neekafat
October 29th 2018


12984 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'd disagree, on the first couple listens they just sound like Phoebe tracks without her doing lead vocals



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