Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus are familiar names to anyone that’s been paying attention to new indie rock music over the last couple of years. But to most, they are part of what is now an often referred to trend of female artists finally rising to the kind of prominence they’ve always deserved. And while this new and more mainstream appreciation of rock music from women is something to be lauded and continued, the new Baker–Bridgers–Dacus supergroup, boygenius, points out the still underlying misogyny in these discussions of successful female musicianship.
The problem is that female artists from varying genres are reductively lumped together because of their gender, even if their respective styles are dramatically different. The three women behind boygenius felt this effect, reading reviews of their individual work that compared them to each other, despite the fact that Dacus is a fuzzy guitar rocker, Bridgers a queen of dreamy folk, and Baker a proponent of hauntingly self–aware emo.
But because they are each female singer–songwriters, critics collected them into some derivative of the , “Rock’s not dead, it’s coming from women.” To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure where the basis of that wording came from, because in what may come as a surprise, there have been women making rock music since the genre’s inception. So Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus decided to collaborate on a six–track self–titled EP as boygenius, a name that itself points out the paradox that men in music are identified as examples of individual genius in a way that is rarely seen with female artists.
On the EP, boygenius, each member takes a turn at the helm on different songs. Opening with “Bite the Hand,” a song in Dacus’s style, the lyrics rise and fall in questions and frustrations, always landing on the echoing line, “I can’t love you how you want me to.” Though Dacus’s lower voice takes the lead in this song, haunting harmonies of Bridgers and Baker follow behind, and continue into the next, more folksy song, “Me & My Dog.” Guided by Bridgers, the group follows another tale of a romance that falls from grace, ringing out towards the end with an all too familiar sentiment in the line, “I wanna hear one song without thinking of you.”
Each track has its own soothing perfection, as ghostly and comforting as darkly bare tree limbs that stand out against a gray autumn sky. Through alternating acoustic and electronic rhythms, couplets stand out that also prove this group’s immense talent in lyricism as well. Heartbreaking favorites include Baker’s “I look at you and you look at a screen,” from “Stay Down,” or Dacus’s “But you haven’t decided / About taking or leaving me,” from “Salt in the Wound.” And the final track, “Ketchum, ID,” is an all too brief song rooted in heart–twisting harmonies that will make even the most cynical listener homesick.
This 21–minute EP will leave fans wanting, craving, needing more, but to expect much else from this group would be to misunderstand the point of boygenius completely. Yes, these songs are beautiful in the way they demonstrate these artists’ ability to work together so flawlessly and fluidly, but the significance of the group is in the implications of their existence. Together as three young women in an industry that too often favors loudly confident men, Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus find a comfortable power in their collaboration, and use it to fearlessly express some of their most raw emotions.
Their meanderings through rock, folk, and all the places in between make this EP difficult to categorize, and therein lies the counterargument to the genre of “women in indie rock.” If such a sound really existed, this blend of three female singer–songwriters would highlight their similarities instead of their differences. Though the whole of boygenius sounds greater than the sum of its parts, we would all do well to remember the irony of its title. After all, don’t we all dream of having the unafraid boygenius–like confidence in love and life that’s heard on this EP?