Exploring the Mastermind of boygenius

Jessica Matthewson explores boygenius’ first studio album and looks at the contrast of their old music…

In 2018, indie supergroup boygenius released the song ‘Me & My Dog’, a single from their self-titled first EP, ‘boygenius’. The three artists, Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker focused on their solo output in the years following, before announcing earlier this year they were back working together on an album, ‘the record’. The album is reminiscent of their first sound released 5 years ago. Their soft guitars and haunting melodies have always set them apart in the indie rock genre, that and the ability to pick out which artist created each track. Their individual styles are so niche and recognisable, but when woven together for a 12-track album, the result is a record full of enchanting and beautiful music. 

Photo from NME

Me & My Dog was always my favourite track from their EP. A tale of pretending, of making the best of a bad situation. It’s knowing your partner isn’t the one for you but still being enthralled by their grace and how cool they appear to be. I could listen to this song a thousand times and never be bored. I could find a new note to love or metaphor to dissect. It’s painful but it’s how music should make you feel, hopelessly hopeful. In a climax of the song the three artists harmonise the line  

“I wanna be emaciated, I wanna hear one song without thinking of you”  

This line is now screamed at concerts by the artists and fans alike, all uniting in the pain that past love can bring and that this dark song writing can represent. The song finishes with the line, “I wish I was on a spaceship, just me and my dog and an impossible view.” The unhealthy feelings that the singer has detailed about the relationship throughout the song, ends with them wishing to be away from the situation altogether. To be alone with only her dog.  

This song feels like a beginning and an end. To open yourself up to the thought that a relationship can be as bad as it can be good. That an unhealthy obsession can become so engrossing that the only way to rid yourself from the situation is to fly off and never look back.  

Photo from Pitchfork

 You can imagine my shock as a fan when I listened to the new album, already taken with the first 11 tracks. The melody to the last song kicked in on my headphones and I was transported back to hearing ‘Me & My Dog’ for the first time, except there was something different. A shift in tone. ‘Letter To An Old Poet’ is the 12th and final song on the new album and it’s a direct reply to their earlier hit. As if looking back on the strained, unhealthy relationship from years ago with the hindsight and maturity that you can only gain with time. The singer sounds stronger and more in control, they see their strength now. The song starts soft and sad, it builds to the same standard of the song it’s answering. Not until the chorus do we hear the same tune from ‘Me & My Dog’, and feel the same excitement that the notes create. The bright confidence of the lyrics in the bridge finally show the growth of the band and each artist credited,  

“I wanna be happy,I’m ready to walk into my room without lookin’ for you. I’ll go up to the top of our building, And remember my dog when I see the full moon”  

Dacus, Bridgers and Baker went to therapy as a trio before work on the album began. They talked about what they wanted to protect in their relationship, and all recounted the same moment in 2018 at their concert in Brooklyn Steel where they performed ‘Me & My Dog’ completely tearing the place up with some of their best live vocals. ‘Letter To An Old Poet’ was written as a tribute to the crowd and the fans on that special night.  

Photo from Far Out Magazine

 I implore you to listen to these songs in order. To take in how scared and miserable ‘Me & My Dog’ can be, layered with hope and love. Open yourself to the tune and the screaming and feel exactly what the artists intended. And then play ‘Letter To An Old Poet’ to build yourself back up to 10 feet tall. Listen to that unhealthy love as it comes intending to take you down not knowing how strong you can be. Hear the familiar melody and the message the artists have.  

This is a Letter To The Fans… 

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