Written by Maria Arroyo
Up and coming singer/songwriter, Phoebe Bridgers, releases her sophomore record, Punisher, today.
Bridgers has been exploring music from the young age of 11 and has since dedicated her strength as an artist to her support system. “I feel like the most important thing that happened to me is meeting Tony Berg and Ethan Gruska, who produced my first album,” Bridgers says. “Going back and making a record with the same people has been so insanely cool. I feel like I totally dodged a bullet meeting them and making a record that I really loved, and now I really love Punisher. If people hate it, I’m not scared.”
“Punisher is not made up of love songs per se, but rather the impact that love can have on a person and their reality. Her talents shine in this new release because she is “bringing fierce curiosity to slimy and painful things, interrogating them until they yield up answers that are beautiful and absurd, or faithfully reporting the reality that, sometimes, they are neither.”
She starts off with a moving and tension-filled instrumental piece titled “DVD Menu” This is just the start of the way she can manipulate sound to create these alluring and interesting melodies. Her next song “Garden Song” showcases her incredible lyrical content. When I received the download, an early listen, attached was a short story written by Carmen Maria Machado titled “Yesterday, Tomorrow” which is essentially the biography of the Punisher album. Something like this isn’t usually created to go along with a release, but that’s what intrigued me into her story. The ideas and emotions that are spread through the story of “Yesterday, Tomorrow” mirror and work off of the content in the 11 songs here, which I really appreciated.
The albums second single, “Kyoto,” creates even more of a dynamic contrast that keeps things interesting.
“That song is about being in Japan for the first time,” Bridgers says. “Somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, playing my music for people who really want to hear it, and feeling… bad.”
She mentions that this song touches on topics of alcoholism and dissociation. While I felt a lot of the tension building through her story, I felt that there was something holding her back. There was this feeling of being at the edge of a cliff, and instead of jumping into what could be the most amazing sensation of your life, you turn around and walk away. In other words, I couldn’t feel myself falling into the song as much as I really wanted to.
Punisher is interesting in the sense that I really couldn’t push it into a specific genre. It was like Bridgers was able to pull the calming essence from every genre and weave them together seamlessly to create this song, which I find immensely incredible. Another favorite of the album is “Halloween” with the intricate leading tones and suspension and tension that she creates within the song. I love the attention to a strong bass presence, and this song moved very well for me. This is probably the most relatable song for myself, which makes me enjoy it more.
“Chinese Satellite” spurs up some intensity that isn’t heard in the previous songs. This song is also probably the broadest of all of them. While I like that Bridgers writes in a way that most listeners can interpret the song to suit them, this one just didn’t have any structure for me, and to be honest, I was lost at times as far as what message she was trying to get across.
Bringing more imagery to light is “Moon Song.” There’s this sensual nature behind her voice that adds some color to her sound, and without a doubt, I could feel the emotion and passion every second of this song.
Her next song “Savior Complex” creates this soothing and calm like energy, similar to that of a sweet lullaby. It was a vulnerable and beautiful piece that I really appreciated, and it added a lot of depth to her overall story.
“Graceland Too” is a beautiful acoustic and folk-pop song that is so much fun to listen to. There’s tons of variation in the melody of the song, and the overlapping harmonies of the voices are executed almost perfectly!
Closing out Punisher is “I Know The End.” There’s this feeling of hope that turns her message of pain to one of hope and prosperity. The definition between the sections of the song is the most diverse here. Bridgers explains this song as “Punisher in a nutshell: devastating elegance punctuated by a moment of deeply campy self-awareness.”
Punisher has so many great moments of rising and falling of emotion, which makes it impossible to not feel something when you listen. Like I said before, having “Yesterday, Tomorrow” as a preface to the album really put a ton of perspective on the album and made some of the questionable moments make more sense. This biography gives some much-needed context to understand the huge turning points of most of the songs. Punisher is breaking some massive barriers and in the best of ways.
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