There is something musty and embarrassing about a supergroup: it conjures images of old rock men well past their peak. That’s what makes Boygenius, a new collaboration from Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, so exciting. The six-track release features songs performed by three young American singer-songwriters fresh from making critically acclaimed albums. Boygenius is a natural extension of a stint touring together in November.
Three animalistically titled songs from the EP have already been released: “Me & My Dog”, “Bite the Hand” and “Stay Down”. The particular shape of each artist’s songwriting comes through even as their approaches blend together. “Me & My Dog” has all the scaffolding of a Bridgers break-up song, its grand, existential emptiness pinned down by kitchen sink mundanities: “It was a great day,” she sings, “even though we forgot to eat.” Sexual desire, hunger and our most unattainable ambitions are heads of the same beast: as the crescendo builds, Bridgers sings over layered guitars, “I wanna be emaciated… I wish I was on a spaceship. Just me and my dog and an impossible view.”
Opener “Bite the Hand” features soft harmonies as Dacus repeats the defeated line, “I can’t love you like you want me to,” and muses, “Maybe I’m afraid of you”. The Baker-led “Stay Down” contemplates guilt, shame and toxic relationships, with vocals and violins pleading for redemption. “Push me down into the water like a sinner,” Baker sings, “Hold me under and I’ll never come up again”. There are three tracks still to come – “Souvenir”, a raw look at self-loathing; the fuzzy and cavernous “Salt in the Wound”, and the spare, Christian country-inflected ballad “Ketchum, ID”. It’s a rare joy: a meeting of fiercely individual voices that harmonise perfectly.
This article appears in the 05 Sep 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The hard man of the Left