boygenius lives up to their name with new singles


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The three members of boygenius (from left) Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus standing at a photoshoot in 2018.

By Nick Glover, Lifestyle Editor

Indie-phenoms Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker released three new singles under their shared name boygenius. 

“$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry” and “True Blue” are the lead singles for their upcoming project titled “the record.” 

After releasing a self-titled EP in 2018, the group stopped releasing music under the moniker. Instead, they chose to focus on their solo careers, Baker and Dacus each releasing a record in 2021 and Bridgers releasing one in 2020. 

These three singles are in the group’s typical style, a rock-inspired indie that takes hints from folk, punk and singer-songwriter. Of course, there is growth from their previous EP. Instead of their former focus on acoustic, almost mellow instrumentation, the group goes electric on this album. The guitar playing is more amplified and there’s far more distortion than there was on their earlier work. 

The first single “$20” starts with Baker singing a line that fits her typical worry-to-the-wind attitude, “It’s a bad idea and I’m all about it.” As the song goes on, imagery of the forgotten treasure of scrap yards fill the verses and Baker sings of a car that can’t run “on wishes.” 

By the chorus, the metaphor begins to emerge. When Baker and Dacus sing “Run out of gas, out of time, out of money / You’re doing what you can, just making it run,” it is clear that they are not just talking about cars. The pair are worrying about themselves burning out, but they have to acknowledge that they are still doing what they can to subsist. 

The song starts soft, guitar rhythmically strumming along with a simple drum groove, reminiscent of the pop-punk of the early 2010s. This continues through the song until the bridge where the band’s vocal abilities truly shine. With vocal melodies and counterpoints, the bridge quickly builds energy without any change in the drums. When the final chorus hits and the drums build to a roar, the band can hit the scream they have been building towards the entire time. 

And then, silence. 

“Emily I’m Sorry” takes this silence and keeps the simplicity there. A muted guitar pairs with the trio’s soft and flowing vocals to create a mood of melancholy calm. 

This song reflects on Bridgers’ relationship with Chris Nelson and Emily Bannon. When that relationship ended, Bridgers detailed the alleged abuse that Nelson perpetrated against Bannon, according to Rolling Stone

“Emily I’m Sorry” seems to be Bridgers’ apology that she could not stand up for her lover sooner. Bridgers seems to be stuck on this relationship, singing, “Yet, I can feel myself becoming / Someone only you could want.” The second verse has Bridgers sing about being ready to commit, but it feels too late for it to work, thus the titular apology.

This track’s slow and soft guitar matches well with the gentler sides of Bridgers’ voice. The differing rhythm of the vocals increase the feeling of the song to fever pitch, but as the second chorus ends, this relaxed song finds itself again and lulls to a mild end. 

Finally, “True Blue” features the final member of boygenius, Lucy Dacus. “True Blue” starts with a constant and flat guitar. Dacus’ voice is full of character, sounding like a speaking voice from the early era of “talkie” films. When the drums kick in, they are soft and mellow, but still building the tension. The line “Who won the fight? I don’t know / We’re not keeping score” is particularly hard to stomach as it contorts the listener’s idea of a fight in a relationship to something that isn’t winnable, but rather something to get through. 

As the chorus hits, the backing vocals of Bridgers and Baker come in, melding together into a flux of dejection. The stick-out line, “I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself,” almost shrouds the instrumentals, giving the vocals the space to hit the listener right where it hurts.

The second chorus adds to this effect by adding in more lines, particularly, “your love is tried and true-blue,” the line that gives the song its name. Dacus’ lover is both “tried and true,” long-lasting and tested, and “true-blue,” loyalty to the most possible point.  

The group is back and, pardon the cliche, better than ever. Their writing is multi-layered as ever, and their vocals are the perfect mix of melding pads, backing vocals and robust, stark lead vocals. 

The new boygenius album, “the record,” is set to release on streaming services and physically via the band’s website on March 31.