Born out of chance encounters by three young musicians on uncommon but similar paths, indie supergroup Boygenius collects the talents of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus and results in an exciting and inspired chemistry. Already respectively successful when the idea to collaborate came up, each artist had fine-tuned her own distinctive approach to introspective and often sad-hearted songwriting. These variant approaches come to define the charm of Boygenius, as three unique voices rise up or blend into a singular force over the concise course of six songs, created in the studio in just four days. Each member of the group brought in one partially finished song and some loose ideas to be worked on collectively. It's easy to hear Bridgers' detached melancholy at the core of standout track "Me & My Dog," Dacus' masterful balance of guitar distortion and controlled anguish on "Salt in the Wound," and Baker's emo-leaning explosions on "Stay Down." Even with telltale signifiers of their individual approaches, the collaborative aspects are never out of focus. With musical personalities this strong, it would be easy to fall into the trap of one artist taking the lead from song to song, leaving the others to recede into the shadows as supporting characters. Interweaving harmonies, instrumental shifts, and dalliances with subtle genre-bending that communicate shared experiences and frustrations would never show up on any of the members' solo records, and make for the EP's most exciting moments. Moreover, on songs less clearly the product of one songwriter, the group reaches its full potential. "Salt in the Wound" takes speed like a comet hurtling toward an unsuspecting planet, with the three singers trading verses until the entire song is on fire and falling to pieces. This song flares out into the country-tinged album closer, "Ketchum, ID." One of the best songs of the bunch, it lays out a fantasy probably held by many mid-level indie musicians deep into a grueling tour, one of quitting music and moving to Idaho to leave it all behind. Gorgeously haunted harmonies and a listless, unfulfilled air recall the loneliness of Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch at their best and perfectly communicate the dull emptiness of watching life roll by from the window of a tour bus. The brevity of Boygenius can make it feel somewhat incomplete at times, lacking the kind of arc that gave depth to albums by its individual creators. Taken in as a small cache of excellent songs by three of the more talented songwriters of their era, Boygenius is a wonderful starting point, setting the scene for future collaborations that push into places each member couldn't get to on her own.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas