Maya Cassady ‘19
This December, I hope y’all listen to Boygenius, a collaborative EP written by Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus. The three solo artists had been frequently associated together due to their success as women in the indie rock genre despite their music’s pronounced differences. In response, Boygenius was coined as a callout to listeners who think that women in their genre are indistinguishable while one man is a genius. Boygenius, the supergroup’s six-song EP, distills each artist’s unique musical qualities and melds them together to seamlessly expand the indie-rock genre.
“Bite the Hand” opens the EP with the voice of Lucy Dacus leading the beautifully confrontational song. Beginning with a soft-rock guitar, Dacus’s voice is soon accompanied by Bridgers and Baker, adding a higher vocal layer to the alto’s melodic lead. “Here’s the best part distilled for you / But you want what I can’t give to you”; my favourite lyrics in the second verse summarize the song’s meaning perfectly. At its essence, “Bite the Hand” is about changing yourself for someone you love, trying to make yourself into someone you aren’t. With the building guitars and three distinct vocal lines, it becomes bigger than a broken love song; “Bite the Hand” transforms into an ode to the broken hearted. As the last refrain repeats “I can’t love you how you want me to”, Dacus, Bridgers, and Baker’s voices begin rounding the lines. Amidst the breakdown of the final lines, the instruments fade, and the listener is left with three distinct voices and the static of a mic in the background. It simplistically ends with their three voices singing the final line, leaving me with a sadness and appreciation for quiet endings.
Contrasting the quietly lonely lyrics of “Bite the Hand” is “Salt in the Wound”. The incredibly lyrical song takes each artist’s unique sound and produces the most collaborative song on the EP. The guitar accompanying the trio’s vocals is set to a dirty, muzzled sound, yet amazingly each note is still distinguishable amongst the dirty, muffled setting. The guitar is a great synopsis of the song: heartbreakingly direct while still remaining nuanced and layered. The chords begin as soft and tentative, but as the song progresses they grow into forceful catchlines of the song. The lyrics build around the instrumentals, directed towards people who continually take advantage of others’ need to please. “Salt in the Wound” is sung with the anger and tenacity of women who are tired of their industry’s, society’s, and world’s standards. Julien Baker’s verse contains my favourite lyrics across the EP. She shouts, backed by layers of guitars, drums, and bass: “I’m gnashing my teeth / Like a child of Cain”, an allusion to the Biblical description of hell mixed with the symbolic cursed suffering of Cain’s lineage. The lyrics influenced by her southern, small-town upbringing calls out to those who take advantage of others, to the society we have built around us. I often find myself shouting with her.
The sixth and final song on the EP, “Ketchum, ID”, is led by Phoebe Bridgers. While the song is actually about moving to an Idahoan town where there’s a lowkey and quiet charm, it reminds me of going home for the holidays. In fact, when I grabbed my luggage and waited for my family at the baggage claim this Thanksgiving break, I listened to “Ketchum, ID” croon into my headphones. It encompasses the sadness of moving on, of growing up, paired with the drifting that’s inherently tied to early adulthood. It reminds me of moving forward, towards college, towards a new place, and I continue to appreciate the song about drifting and establishing a new home. Bridger’s voice with Dacus and Baker harmonizing to an acoustic guitar perfectly ends their first collaborative EP. With the holidays coming up, I hope that all of you take the time to sit down with a nice cup of coffee (or any of your favourite holiday drinks) and listen to Boygenius.