Album Review: boygenius – the rest EP

[Interscope; 2023]

It had been almost been five years of silence from indie supergroup boygenius after the release of their self-titled EP in 2018. That is, until last March, when the release of their debut album the record saw an ambitious climb to No. 4 on the Billboard 200. The trio’s new release, the rest, is a four-track EP they’ve described as an “expansion” of the record, though with a deliberate return to the folky acoustic melodies that characterized their original EP. 

the rest can be defined by its most insecure and self-deprecating moments. “Black Hole” opens the EP with what is probably the lightest of the four tracks, but rest assured, the other three deliver the depth and emotional resonance that boygenius fans have come to expect. “Afraid of Heights”, fronted by Lucy Dacus, looks at the complex interplays between ambition and vulnerability from the perspective of someone who is afraid to lose their footing; “I want to live a vibrant life / But I want to die a boring death.” Dacus’ distinctive style, characterized by the inherent weariness in her voice, is perfectly exemplified here as she delivers her most striking lines: “One man’s dream is another man’s death.” This lends an authentic and deeply personal touch to the music, making it an especially moving reflection on her lifelong losing battle of trying to reconcile her dreams with her insecurities. 

On “Voyager”, Phoebe Bridgers sings lead while delivering brutally honest introspections on a past relationship: “You thought I’d never leave / And I let you believe you were right.” These diaristic confessions are often met with the other two members humming harmonies in the background, crafting a contemplative atmosphere in the most alluring way possible. This is what makes boygenius work so well – while individually Dacus’, Bridgers’ and Julien Baker’s voices are some of the most unique in the indie scene, any combination of the three blends together beautifully. 

Throughout their work, boygenius often weave in little quotable mantras that are slightly vague, but universally applicable and thus open to interpretation. Bridgers’ gentle voice breathing the words “You took it from me / But I would’ve given it to you,” is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine, irrespective of their ability to directly relate. Longing, vulnerability, and the nuances of human connection are universal experiences, and boygenius have mastered the art of tapping into these commonalities. 

The amount of emotion that is packed into the sigh Baker breathes just before beginning to sing on closer “Powers” makes you wonder whether the song is named after it. This – along with the rapid acoustic guitar strumming – gives the song an impatient feeling, making lyrics such as  “Am I simply another of the universe’s failed experiments?” feel more frustrated than dejected. This sentiment, however, is quickly contrasted by a long, slow outro of horns and the occasional acoustic guitar strum, creating a resolute yet strangely serene resonance that lingers on as the EP comes to an end.