If you’re into sad songs written by young, incredibly talented people, it’s a wonderful time to be alive. The kids of the emo scene are all grown up now and some have found their own way into the music industry. It’s not the eyeliner-clad heavy rock scene that it was when My Chemical Romance was the big name of the day, though; the “new emo” is stripped back, with haunting vocals, folksy guitar playing and very little else.
This November, three of the biggest and brightest names of this scene came together to release a collaborative EP. Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus have joined forces to create boygenius, a project inspired by the trio’s long-standing friendships and driven by a passion for one another’s music.
The EP consists of six songs, of which each artist has provided two: one fully-formed track and one idea to work on collectively. As a result, individual influences shine through on a few tracks. “Stay Down” is a laced with the plaintive vulnerability that defines Baker’s work. “Me & My Dog”, led by Bridgers, turns wistfulness into a hazy dream in a way that only she can. Dacus makes her mark on “Bite the Hand”, the EP’s opener, combining self-doubt with the self-confidence of a slightly more rock-and-roll style.
While those personalities are still there, boygenius isn’t defined by any of them. It’s not even really about combining the three personalities. One of the most incredible things about this EP is that, in spite of the huge personal marks each of its creators leave, it sounds like something entirely new. There’s a rhythm and a pulse on boygenius that can’t be found on Historian or Stranger in the Alps (and certainly not on Baker’s solo efforts, which are often just her and her guitar). It’s an example of beautiful alchemy, somehow turning each artist into something more precious when brought together like this. A perfect example of this is “Souvenir”, a song that could only have been created by this wondrous union.
Boygenius closes with “Ketchum, ID”, and while it’s one of the EP’s simplest songs, it captures the mood perfectly. The song sounds like it was recorded around a campfire; three beautiful voices, in harmony around a single guitar. They’re singing their hearts out, but no one is trying to be the leader or the star of the show. There’s not a trace of ego here, just three friends helping each other make sad music. It’s the best thing I’ve heard all year.
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus are on tour together throughout November. They will each be playing a solo set, and then taking to the stage together as an encore to play Boygenius material. They have a sold out show scheduled at the Danforth in Toronto on November 10.