Few releases have got me quite as hyped in 2023 as boygenius’ debut. You could say it’s been somewhat of a long time coming, with an EP released in 2018, followed by some stellar performances that you can find all over YouTube and nothing much else. What’s got fans hungry has been each member rise since then. Back when their debut EP was released in 2018, Phoebe Bridgers solo debut, Stranger in the Alps, was only a couple of months old and riding on the back of the huge success of lead single Motion Sickness. The project, to many, was just a nice little add on to this new and exciting pop sensations debut. What followed for Bridgers was a second album that grew on everything her debut put out, including popularity. For Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker much the same is true, though admittedly on a much smaller scale. But all this excitement has led me in the past to unfortunate disappointment down the road, so for the past few months I had tried to keep a lid on things, finally I’m happy to say that lid can fly off.
In short, the album is nothing short of miraculous. No miss steps are taken in the 42-minute run time, which really feels like less than 30. Just before the album was released, because I had adored the lead singles form the album, I was a little worried that the album may be top heavy, because all four appear in the first 6 track, but I was way off the mark. First off, the lead singles – $20 gripped me from the minute I heard it, a era transcending earworm of a riff, brilliantly absurdist witty lyrics and a catchy chorus fuse together to make one of the best songs of the year.
Next to that is Emily I’m Sorry and True Blue, some really nice case studies into how effortlessly diverse this super group can be. Tender and reflective both in equal measure. The first half of the album culminates in Not Strong Enough,the absolute pinnacle of the now surely trademarked Phoebe Bridgers-esque singer songwriter track. The line Always an angel never a God is one that will grab and stay with you for a long time. Sonically though I’m glad to report that this whole affair in fact does feel like each member of the band attending a graduation ceremony to become untouchable musical Gods.
The second half is just as strong, with big rock anthems Satanist and Anti-Curse, both in a similar vein to $20 absolutely faultless from start to finish in every aspect, being sprinkled in between some of the most heart wrenching ballads you will hear this year. The highlight of these is comfortably Letter To An Old Poet, which beats you over the head with a dark melancholy that is reminiscent of Bridgers recent Christmas covers EP she released last year. Each acoustic lead track is so perfectly mixed, merging the gentle vocals with crisp instrumentation that never out shines, but supports in every way it can.
When all is said and done, this has taught me that some times its completely okay to expect the best. I had been wearying ever since the somewhat fumbled, rewrite littered, though still brilliant debut from Black Country, New Road. Expectations were too high and the just couldn’t deliver on that. I lowered my expectations and exactly a year later they released the best album of the last 30 years. With boygenius though, for the first time since I can remember, I was expecting a perfect experience and that is exactly what was delivered. I don’t know what the future holds for the band itself, but as far as supergroups go, after just one album, boygenius are up there in the pantheon of iconic, historic supergroups. Somewhere above Them Crooked Vultures and (just) below Cream seems fair to me, but there still feels like there’s so much work to be done.