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Boygenius's Latest Album Revives Rock Ballads

Arthur Michelstetter

Editor-in-Chief of Verbatim

December 15, 2023

With its apt title, “The Record” (stylized in all lower-case) tells its audience that this is the album they've been waiting for, and it became awaited by a large audience after an LA photoshoot between the Boygenius members sparked rumors about the group's second collaboration.  What came was not only a cleaned-up version of their 2018 self-titled EP, but a marvelous expansion of the group's sound and story-telling abilities, passing verses and emotion back and forth and channeling haunting harmonies.  No track gives the impression that it is uninteresting; displaying striking emotional complexity, each song goes past being reduced to a single idea or thought.

In “Leonard Cohen,” Lucy Dacus recounts a mishap with a significant other on the interstate, Dacus draws in specific metaphors.  “I am not an old man having an existential crisis/At a Buddhist monastery,” she sings over a soft guitar that lets her vocals and lyrics pierce through.  The track accomplishes a lot in its meager one minute and 42 seconds through its impeccable songwriting emblematic of the album at large.  The lyrics and tone are slightly concerned and anxious toward the beginning, but Dacus in the end happily concludes that “I never thought you’d happen to me,” giving the audience the full range of experience of the surrealness of requited love.

Boygenius also finds its strength through harmonization, especially in the a cappella introduction “Without You Without Them” before immediately, but smoothly, transitioning into “$20,” another example of the group’s cohesion.  Even though Julien Baker has the lead vocals throughout the entire song, the transition to Phoebe Bridgers's scream is an immediate album highlight.  The transitional music throughout each song rounds out the album perfectly—the transition between the first chorus and second verse in “Emily I’m Sorry” and the synthesizer tracks in “Not Strong Enough” being examples of such.  “Not Strong Enough” is ironically one of the strongest songs from the album.  The chorus is catchier than the average Max Martin-produced song, and Dacus gives the world the best vocal performance of “The Record”.  “I don’t know why I am the way I am,” she belts at the last chorus, freeing the world from all its struggles.

However, Dacus also features the weakest vocals on the album during the beginning “We’re In Love,” but quickly makes up for it toward the end of the song.  The lyrics perfectly match the song, though, as Dacus desperately sings “I will/Go on and on and on until/It all comes back,” justifying the shaky, yet flat vocals.  On the contrary, the only moment of weak lyrics appears during “$20”: “In another life, we were arsonists,” Baker clunkily sings.  But more often than not, the lyrics are always triumphantly vivid to the ear even though on paper they can leave one wondering how it could work.

Boygenius's perfection occurs in the song “True Blue,” a masterpiece that goes beyond any traditional rock, love ballad.  “I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself,” confesses Dacus over a beautiful, summery guitar riff.  The song is melodic, the lyrics are detailed like Michaelangelo, the backing vocals create beautiful harmonies, and the track resembles everything that Boygenius does well. 

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