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Julien Baker’s New EP is Pure Genius

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When people first hear Julien Baker’s music, they often marvel at the contrast that she is able to create within one song. Within moments, Baker can manipulate her voice from a whisper to a roar, crescendoing with the ease of an orchestra, so the awe is understandable. What is not fully known to the listener in that moment, however, is that an ability to exist seamlessly in many spaces is a common-thread throughout Baker’s career. Much like her home of Memphis, and its existence as a crossroads of cultures and scenes, Baker is able to use her many influences and experiences to inform her art.

In no work of hers is this more present than her recently released EP, “boygenius,” created alongside newly found bandmates Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Daucus.

Throughout its six songs, the listener is taken on a sonic whirlwind that includes soaring harmonies akin to Fleet Foxes: riffs so heavy that they present a nearly physical weight and lyrics that tell emotionevoking stories as encapsulating as a full-length novel. Some people spend years seeking to create art as earnest as “boygenius,” making it all the more impressive that it was created in five short days.

Normally for a collaboration of this scale, the music blossoms out of a chance encounter in a studio or crossing paths at a show. While this was the partial reality for Baker, Daucus and Bridgers, the manifestation of collaboration actually came after the tour was booked, setting the three on a deadline of sorts to decide how they wanted to create. In speaking with Baker via phone, she said “We booked all of us on the tour, and we were trying to think ‘Are we going to do a cover? Should we maybe write a single together, and what would that look like?’ And as we started talking about it we just got more and more excited and it snowballed into us setting aside some time in the triple venn diagram where our tour schedules overlapped with some free time and sitting down and writing with each other.”

The result of this was time set aside in Los Angeles’ Sound City Studios, where the six-track EP came to life. The first day together served as a time to hash out the half-baked ideas that had previously only existed on a shared Google Drive between the three artists, while the final four were spent exploring and creating within the studio. Of the process, Baker said “We went into the studio and everything pretty much materialized there in the recording process.”

Within the six tracks, there are countless moments where Baker, Daucus and Bridgers all shine individually, but the EP is at its best when there is a back-and-forth between the three. Nowhere is that more on display than the final two tracks, which serve as the most maximalist and minimalist moments within the album. On “Salt In The Wound,” a seamless transition exists between the three, as they move in and out of sharing vocal duties. By the outro, it is as if the track could slip off the rails at any moment. Yet it never does, held down by the simultaneously calm and chaotic wall of noise being created.

Alternately, “Ketchum, ID” strips down any and all layers, leaving us with a single guitar and three mesmerizing vocals. As Bridgers, Daucus and Baker trade verses and share a chorus of beautiful harmonizationtelling the trials of a traveling musicianone cannot help but marvel at the fact that this track in particular was the product of merely a few days work.

Boygenius serves as further confirmation that Julien Baker is one of this generation’s most versatile and talented artists, someone who can create a visceral connection with her audience while defying the labels of a genre.”

Her willingness to unapologetically create innovative art is what allows her to exist within spheres of hardcore, indie, folk and punk. It is what allows her to collaborate with everyone from Touche Amore to Hanif Abdurraqib for some of the most innovative art in recent memory. Ultimately, it is what allowed a project such as “boygenius” to come to fruition. And it is what will continue to drive any and all who appreciate art to anxiously await whatever projects Baker brings to the table next.

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Julien Baker’s New EP is Pure Genius