Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher Album Review

Dead Oceans – 2020

The queen of sad indie folk is back. It’s been 3 years since she burst onto the worlds stage with her phenomenal debut ‘Stranger In The Alps’ which was regarded by many as one of the best debut albums of 2017. But it doesn’t seem like 3 years. In the time Phoebe Bridgers has been busy establishing herself as one of the most prominent and prolific artists in modern music. She’s rallied up fellow contemporary indie folk rockers Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus to make the Boygenius supergroup, from which they’ve released the self titled EP back in 2018. She also joined forces with frequent collaborator and Bright Eyes lead singer Conor Oberst last year to create the Better Oblivion Community Center project which saw the duo explore elements of folk, rock and electronic music to create the ‘Better Oblivion Community Center’ album. And most recently she featured on Indie pop hearthrob’s The 1975 for ‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’, a song off their latest project ‘Notes For A Conditional Form’. But through all these collaborations, one thing has become clear, sometimes she works best on her own, letting herself be the centre of attention.

The millennial age needed a voice. That might be Phoebe Bridgers. The stories that she intertwines through every moment on this album speak of the lost generation, trying to find a place in this broken world. She drives these long winding stories through the songs whilst never losing pacing, or your interest, with each line laying down the tracks for the next. Whilst simultaneously engaging in her signature style of witty lyrics. Wether it be the fairytale lo-fi musings of ‘Garden Song’ “When I grow up I’m gonna look up from my phone and see my life, and it’s gonna be like my recurring dream, I’m at the movies, I don’t remember what I’m seeing, The screen turns into a tidal wave”. Or the rolling American heartbreak story piano ballad title track ‘Punisher’ “What if i told you I feel like i know you? But we never met. And here everyone knows, you’re the way to my heart”. Speaking on the generation built on online interactions, that can fall in love, without even saying hello.

What ‘Stranger On The Alps’ established was a songwriter who wallowed in her troubles and was looking for a way to explain them through quiet, delicate and emotion filled songs. Now on ‘Punisher’ she’s taken these emotions and stories and soundtracked a generation with a more expanded sound than ever. ‘Kyoto’ finds Bridgers exploring a more grungier sound than ever, taking it that step further from fan favourite ‘Motion Sickness’. A crunchy riff, big beat and her juxtaposed lyrics of “I’m gonna kill you, if you don’t beat me too it” over the punchy horns make for one menacingly catchy summer anthem. And the eerie scatty harp hits of ‘ICU’ build this feeling of unease and unrest as Bridgers flitters between love and longing.

Adorned on top of Bridgers’ Twitter profile is a picture of her crying over the first two Bon Iver albums. The compacted folk influence of ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ can be heard throughout ‘Stranger In The Alps’ and now she’s taken a leaf from the sonic tree of Bon Iver’s self titled second album. Bringing in the chorus heavy guitars and ethereal vocal harmonies on ‘Chinese Satellite’ and ‘Savior Complex’. She’s expanded on a sound and made it her own. Her vocals on the former are so subtle yet full of deep emotion that you can’t help but cling on to every word Bridgers sings over the pounding drums and string arrangements. “I’ve been running around in circles, pretending to be myself, Why would somebody do this on purpose? When they can do something else” she sings as the song opens and immediately you’re drawn in to her conversationalist like vocals as they glide through your ears.

If anybody’s going to soundtrack the end of the world, it’s Phoebe Bridgers. As society burns around us and we’re all questioning our existence, she’ll be there to sing us into the abyss. ‘I Know The End’ is one of the most cathartic and emotionally intense closing songs in recent memory. Moving from swirling synth melodies to a folk rock ballad, eventually devolving into a huge chorus of chants ‘The end is here’. And finally into the epic symphony of destruction as the gothic melodies play out over Bridgers’ haunting screams, which turn slowly into faint whimpers as the album draws its last breath. Powerful is an understatement, this is the new pinnacle of album closers. If you need a reference, look no further. This is it.

Where does Phoebe Fucking Bridgers go from here. This apogee of emotion and songwriting culminates in one of the most refined ‘singer-songwriter’ albums in modern music.Tying together the stories of a lost generation over the soundtrack of sweeping symphonies and intimate guitars. It’s time to let out those tears.

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