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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Criticism: ‘The Record’

AC_The+Record
Via WikiCommons
AC_The Record

Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker just released what might be the most gut-wrenching, lyrically barbarous albums of 2023 — and it is absolutely phenomenal. 

“The Record” (2023), which was debuted by the indie supergroup on Friday, March 31, marks the official end of the fan-named “boygenius drought” that plagued listeners from 2018-23 following the release of their debut EP, “Boygenius” (2018). Since announcing the release of “The Record” in January, boygenius has been more active than ever in promoting their music, releasing four singles, a music video, a short film and announcing two separate headlining tours.

Despite this sudden surge in hyperactivity from the group, one listen to “The Record” quickly clarifies this album is not the product of a rushed release, but is rather a well-aged anthology of the band’s individual styles and experiences across their careers. Covering topics as raw and relatable as awkward post-breakup niceties and as fantastically ambiguous as Friedrich Nietzsche’s nihilism, “The Record” is both thematically diverse and lyrically cohesive, presenting listeners with an album that intimately blends brutal honesty with chilling vulnerability across various subjects.

Standing out amongst the tracklist includes the Dacus-led, “We’re In Love,” the Bridgers-led, “Letter To An Old Poet” and “Cool About It,” which features each vocalist evenly across the song.

“We’re In Love,” one of the most slow and thematically dense tracks on the entire album, mimics the naked, repetitive nature of human relationships and reminiscence. In it, Dacus’ rich alto drones quietly, producing a sensation similar to the somber, unvaried attitude of the song, and placing listeners in an experience that is simultaneously specific and relatable.

“Some October in the future, I’ll run out of trash TV / And I’ll be feeling lonely, so I’ll walk to karaoke / Sing the songs you wrote about me, never once checking the words / I hope that no one sings along, I hope that I’m not a regular.”

Once the depth and stylistic-sting of this line truly sink in, Dacus gives little time for listeners to recover, quickly following with the short-but-sweet “If you rewrite your life, may I still play a part?” With one slow and nostalgic sucker-punch after another, “We’re In Love” uniquely showcases lyrics that, despite being specific to the bandmates’ intimate experiences and general friendship, can also be applied to the complexities and anxieties of any intense interpersonal relationship. 

“Cool About It” is the most obvious breakup song on “The Record.” However, it avoids the trite clichés of so many breakup anthems before it, uniquely choosing to address the horrible discomfort of a modest, polite interaction with an ex, rather than an angry shouting match or tearful goodbye. Featuring countless simple but casually heartbreaking lyrics such as “Once I took your medication to know what it’s like / And now I have to act like I can’t read your mind,” and “I’ll pretend being with you doesn’t feel like drowning,”  “Cool About It” is nonchalantly devastating to say the least, and is not a song I would recommend listening to if you’ve recently gone through a breakup … or really have broken up with anyone ever. 

Ultimately, the album’s crowning jewel appears in its earth-shattering full-circle finale, “Letter To An Old Poet.” Appearing to be a kind of reprise or response to the group’s 2018 release “Me And My Dog,” “Letter To An Old Poet” draws sonic and lyrical parallels between the two tracks, feeling like a more distanced and powerful perspective on the same relationship described by the band in 2018. Ironically, this utterly heartbreaking song is also fairly funny, featuring lyrics with a casual, dry humor such as “You made me feel like an equal / But I’m better than you / And you should know that by now,” and “When you fell down the stairs / It looked like it hurt and I wasn’t sorry.”

The most impressive part of the track however, appears in the song’s final climatic parallel between the current and former versions of its melody. “Me And My Dog” has classic bombshell of an ending, “I wanna be emaciated / I wanna hear one song without thinkin’ of you / I wish I was on a spaceship / Just me and my dog and an impossible view” is now accompanied by what appears to be a more healed and aged echo, saying, “I wanna be happy / I’m ready to walk into my room without lookin’ for you / I’ll go up to the top of our building / And remember my dog when I see the full moon.”

Acting as the perfect ending to “The Record,” this powerful nod to the band’s past embodies so much of what this album is about. It is a project that addresses pain, insecurity, love and existentialism through a lens of mature reflection, peeling back the various levels of human emotion into something that is unbelievably profound and extensive. It feels like the thick, scarred-over skin of “Boygenius”’ freshly inflamed pain: A wound that has healed with time, but still leaves an achy reminder of hurt in its rawest form. 

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