‘boygenius’ EP offers stunning collaboration between Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus

The supergroup’s debut EP showcases the artists’ individual strengths, but doesn’t always resonate as much as their solo work.

It was difficult not to be excited for boygenius’ debut, self-titled EP. After all, a collaboration between three of modern indie folk’s brightest voices and talents in Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus almost sounded too good to be true. Bridgers’ 2017 debut “Stranger in The Alps” was one of the year’s best albums and biggest surprises, blending raw and honest lyrics with stirring, creative instrumentals. Meanwhile, Baker and Dacus have been consistently putting out excellent music throughout the decade.

Baker and Bridgers have been compared to one another constantly, so it makes perfect sense that they’d team up with Dacus to put out an EP under the name boygenius. However, though the music is as incredible as always, some of the personality and soul that each brought to their solo work is lost. When the collaboration works, it reaches the heights of each artist’s best individual material — when it doesn’t work, it’s just somewhat forgettable.

Oftentimes when great, previously-established solo artists collaborate on an album or EP, it feels like one person takes the lead while the others play background roles. The EP’s third track “Souvenir” is a beautiful alt-country ballad, but it wouldn’t feel out of place on one of Baker’s two solo albums. Likewise, “Salt in The Wound” resembles a song from “Historian,” Dacus’ album from earlier. Neither song is bad, with “Souvenir” especially standing out, but both feel somewhat disappointing in the context of the EP’s more successful collaborations.

The lead single and opening track “Bite the Hand” is arguably the EP’s biggest highlight and where the potential of the collaboration is fully reached. Closer to a typical indie rock song than anything any of the three have done before, the song features Dacus on lead vocals and Baker and Bridgers performing background harmonies. It’s a dark, addictively-catchy song, with its refrain of “I can’t love you how you want me to.”

“Me and My Dog” follows a similar formula and reaches equal heights, with Bridgers taking the lead this time. Like “Bite the Hand,” the song showcases the excellent dynamic of the three artists perfectly, and it also builds to a stunning climax that’s deceptively catchy.

It’s somewhat frustrating that the best songs on “boygenius” are the EP’s lead singles, released a few months prior, but it’s hard to chalk the project up as being a failure. Where most supergroups are one-off projects that indulge each artist’s worst tendencies, boygenius feels like the rare one that, at its best, showcases its musicians working together as one perfectly. Fortunately, it also seems likely to stick around for a while, as the three are currently embarking on a nationwide tour. The EP may not be as earth-shattering as some (myself included) had hoped, but that doesn’t make the prospects of a full album from the three less exciting.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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