There is no perfect box of chocolates. However, if you pick just the right four from the case you can make your own set of just the right flavours and sensations with nothing more and nothing less than you deserve. the rest is exactly that, except you didn’t have to go to the trouble of making any decisions other than pressing play, popping the record onto the player or resting your head on the shoulders of someone you love as you share headphones and listen to their playing of it. the rest is the latest EP by the perfect little trio made up of musicians Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, also known as boygenius.
the rest is an album title that evoked a few thoughts when I heard it. It made me think of; “here is everything” and this is the rest. It also made me think of ; “we have been running non stop, just going and going and going” and now we’re still here but in “rest mode”. Whatever the title means, don’t sleep on this little gem of an EP.
Now to those perfect little morsels of flavours, textures and sensations. The album has four tracks: Black Hole, Afraid of Heights, Voyager, and powers. The first, Black Hole, is a moment in time that you can feel. One little section of time, that sticks with someone forever. Afraid of Heights, is the story song. It is of course about matter of the heart and relationships, but it is a more full story that takes you on that journey with Lucy Dacus as she does. Voyager has lullaby qualities but the slightly haunting old school kind where the baby is falling from the tree. powers is in some ways more abstract without a clear story, but pulling from familiar super hero origin stories with which to ponder one’s own strengths or weaknesses.
Black Hole opens with a quiet beat behind it and reminds me of a Joni Mitchell singer-songwriter pared down song. It has a soft chant-like nature with words being strung together instead of full sentences or storytelling and has the feel of a modern hymn. The words set a scene so palpable that you feel like you are in the moment of this Black Hole. We may not all have sat on the back porch in the song, but we’ve all been in that Black Hole. The last line, is the dart to the heart though, after creating all that space between two people through the entire song, “Sometimes I need to hear your voice.”. boygenius played Black Hole live at their September 25th show in Boston at MGM Music Hall Fenway.
Lucy Dacus has that delicious way of telling her own stories in music, and even though your experiences can’t be the same because your circumstances or settings are different, but the feelings are ones we can all taste– bitter, sweet, and all. Afraid of Heights takes you through the story and had me in tears. I have never been afraid of heights. It made me think about that too. Afraid of Heights just brought me into my feelings so quickly through the lyrics, and brought back some of my own memories of relationships. Oddly enough, one memory of rock climbing with friends after school and being taken off belay by a friend, more like a brother, who saw me get frustrated and about to give up because he knew my level of frustration in that moment and chose to match it. He would never put me in danger but he will always push me beyond where I am. My favourite line is: “I don’t wanna live forever/ But I don’t wanna die tonight”. boygenius played Afraid of Heights live at their September 26th show in Boston at MGM Music Hall Fenway.
Voyager has a lullaby kind of lilt to it, and like all good classic lullabies kind of reminds you how little you are in a big world. While it gives you a sense of being small in a larger universe it is also about a relationship. boygenius is nothing if not sentient beings. They are the super tasters of feelings if that is such a thing. You can see it in how they relate to one another on stage, you can hear it in their voices as they sing together. Voyager suspends you as you listen to it, time slows and you’re forced to feel space: space around you, space between you and someone else, inhaling someone’s presence or gasping for lack of air. Phoebe Bridgers first sang Voyager solo as a “secret song” in July of 2022. Then, on September 28, 2023 at Westville Music Bowl, boygenius played it, where it was revealed as the third song from their second EP.
Slower to savour is powers. It builds gradually, literally as the guitar strums start off the song, and figuratively with the lyrics. The first few times I listened to powers, what made me want to sit with it longer and hold it on my tongue a while is actually the outro. It puts you down and walks away slowly leaving you with the full album in your lap. And then, what I had to do is play it again and again and again. Not just because I want to share my thoughts on the EP, but because I want to experience it more deeply each time.