In a sentence:
Even more confident than her accomplished debut, Phoebe Bridgers’ ‘Punisher’ elevates potentially depressing material into something life-affirming.
The beloved singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers’ second solo album Punisher is a dreamy collection of songs bearing hefty loneliness, co-dependency and unrequited sacrifice towards self-hating partners. Ranging from country tinged to outright chaotic, it’s a record with a lot of heart, and surprisingly soothing despite disorientation and isolation being the subject matter.
The ‘soft’, emotional variant on the indie music genre has
been flourishing over the last decade or two with artists such as Mitski, Julia
Jacklin, Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy and Phoebe Bridgers herself releasing widely
lauded music narrating loneliness, hopelessness and other extremely relevant (mental)
struggles of our generation, soundtracking the lives of many a twenty-something.
Not to lump all these artists together – they all stand out in different ways –
but there’s something special in managing to maintain your own signature sound
in an increasingly expanding genre.
With Punisher, Bridgers further asserts her
songwriting style as dream-like yet haunted, tales of loneliness amidst
companionship. Having previously worked with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes on Better
Oblivion Community Center and teaming up with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus
on her newest solo effort Bridgers sounds like she’s finally figuring out the Catch-22
of her saviour complex, better than ever articulating the nuances of offering another
person your all, despite them staring right through you.
Dreams, death and Americana mysticism seem to inform a lot
of Bridgers’ music. The ghostly cover of her debut Stranger In The Alps echoes
the intangibility of the new album’s first single ‘Garden Song’, which
excellently fuses tale-like imagery of houses on the hill and romantic
tenderness with Practical Magic-esque burials of skinheads becoming fertilizer
for your rose patch. The eponymous track ‘Punisher’ addresses the heft of
influence the late Elliott
Smith’s music and life has on Bridgers’ songwriting, pointing out their
lyrical similarities and ruminating on the weird feeling of intimacy a fan has
with their favourite artist, as if relating to their songs echo a genuine
starts the second part of the album, and can be articulated as ‘I love a
self-destructing person and their lack of love for me is destroying me’.
Romantic in sound yet self-aware in such a relationship’s futility, Bridgers
explores this in both platonic and romantic flavours, articulate in
descriptions yet without a sense of self-pity. Both ‘Moon Song’ and ‘Savior Complex’ are
constructed from extremely hummable, almost lullaby-esque melodies that cut
through the vivid imagery of pissing contests and crocodile tears, second album
single ‘I See You’
having a manic depressive twist, addressing the one person that makes one feel
something in such a low state.
The album closer ‘I Know The End’ manages to
brilliantly encapsulate the relatable sense of impending doom that each of us
live with every day, growing from a wistful melody to a surprising, growling
beast of a chorus featuring guitar from Nick Zinner, Nathaniel Walcott on
trumpet, Conor Oberst on vocals and many more, resulting in a cathartic
release, only to finish off with lowkey creepy, breathy screaming. It’s both together
and alone, constantly wishing to be somewhere else, chasing solitude and
companionship simultaneously, not knowing what to do with oneself when the
quaintness and familiarity of one’s surroundings are infused with a twinge of
Punisher might sound like an extremely lonely record
due to the repeating narrated failures to form healthy relationships and, well,
the undercurrent of a sort of End, but its soothing tone and memorable melodies
carry Phoebe Bridgers’ signature voice with a caring affectation, the album
coming off as calming and understanding instead of depressing and isolating.
It’s an obvious development from Bridgers’ excellent debut, and it shines due
to the grown confidence with which she writes, a master of her own voice. (7/10)
Listen to Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Phoebe Bridgers, Punisher, review
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