“The Review” of “The Record”

“The Review” of “The Record”

Meg Keyes, Shen Pen Contributor

     One of the most highly anticipated albums of 2023 has been boygenius’ “The Record.” The supergroup’s first album marks the end of a 5 year hiatus following the release of their self-titled debut EP. Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers have made no secret of their continuing friendship but have also significantly grown their individual followings since the EP release, with all 3 making strong names for themselves with their solo careers. 

     For those who know about the group’s previous endeavors, fans of their individual work, or really anyone with an eye on the indie music scene, the release of “The Record” was an exciting prospect, and it absolutely delivers. The three singer-songwriters have managed to create an incredibly engaging album without discarding any of their individual styles or producing something incohesive, and their clear love for one another allows the messages of the album to shine.

     “The Record” focuses heavily on the nuances of friendship, self-improvement, and maturity, and often accomplishes that through links between songs. In “True Blue,” Dacus leads with a slow, emotional song highlighting an incredibly loyal, dedicated friendship. Although her companion seems a bit of a hot mess, Dacus expresses her affection for the person and their relationship. The “tough,” “tried,” and “true blue” love she receives provides a clear sense of comfort for her. 

     Although it isn’t explicitly stated that the two songs are connected, “Satanist” seems to give the other side of the situation; the speaker is an “anarchist,” “nihilist”, and “satanist,” taking the listener along on their whirlwind of endeavors. The audience is put in the place of Dacus from “True Blue,” allowing us to feel the intense affection that she does. Neither party of the friendship is a perfect person— “True Blue” tends to “hide” from her emotions and “Satanist” is presented as more than a little impulsive— but the relationship isn’t based on being perfect, it’s based on genuine care for one another.

     Besides the lyrical references to the intersections between friendship and individuality, the whole style of the album adds to the effect. Most of the songs on the album could be pretty easily categorized into the style of one of the three members by anyone familiar with their solo work, but they manage to do that without the album feeling too disconnected. 

     The two opening songs exemplify this perfectly; “Without You Without Them” stands out as a Dacus song and is followed immediately by the clearly Baker-style “$20”, but both songs incorporate elements of the other members’ music. “Without You Without Them” uses the multiple vocal ranges of the group to its advantage, keeping the Dacus feel with pared-down instrumentation but creating harmonies with the three vocal parts, and “$20” has some distinctly strong Baker guitar but also incorporates screaming towards the end of the song, strikingly similar to the solo Bridgers track “I Know The End.”

     The final song on the album really exemplifies everything they were hoping to do. “Letter to an Old Poet” is a love letter to the band and its members, down to the interpolation of parts of a song off their EP, “Me & My Dog.” Where “Me & My Dog” was written about having a panic attack and needing an escape, “Letter to an Old Poet” highlights the growth the narrator has gone through. Instead of needing an escape, they are now able to both rely on themself and still keep those happy memories alive. 

     The song is a perfect closer to an album about both friendship and self-reliance, tying everything up neatly and not abandoning the roots that make Boygenius what it is. It represents everything the album was meant to be: an ode to learning to love yourself enough to let people go, and enough to let people in.