Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Most supergroup projects tend to be breezy affairs, as artists who are used to carrying the burden when solo take advantage of the camaraderie of the group dynamic and take a load off in the process. By contrast, boygenius takes the intensity and earnestness that Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers bring to their own work and amps it up by a power of three.
Their self-titled EP features six songs that follow a pattern of stark, melancholy openings slow-building to anguished, urgent refrains. The musicians take turns taking the lead, but when the harmonies come, and lovely harmonies they are, they project communal suffering instead of support.
Each of these songwriters knows how to turn a phrase that seems simple on the surface but cuts deep the more you consider it. They also know that a repetitive foundation, such as churning electric guitar or contemplative acoustic, is just fine as long as the tunes deviate in unexpected ways from melodic sea level.
Highlights include “Me And My Dog,” with the titular canine having to stand in for the narrator’s wayward lover. It’s a showcase for Bridgers; “I wanna hear one song without thinking of you,” she laments. Dacus grabs the spotlight on leadoff track “Bite The Hand,” with the vocals of her bandmates intertwining around her heartsick main melody. And it’s Baker’s turn on the EP’s standout, “Salt In The Wound,” as she spins metaphors to try to soften the visceral sting of a deteriorating relationship: “Trick after trick, I make the magic/ You unrelentingly ask for the sequel.”
The fact that there isn’t much variety in the approach is somewhat forgivable at the shorter EP length. boygenius may be a one-off, but there is great potential there for more should they abide, what with their top-notch songwriting and three voices that coexist much more smoothly than the couples depicted in their songs.