Indie Songstress Phoebe Bridgers' Debut Album Is a Tender Collection of Confessions
Photo by Frank Ockenfels
Today, indie singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers releases her debut album, Stranger In The Alps. The Los Angeles songstress has caught the attention of major music publications this past year for her lush forays into melancholy music, and her first full-length release offers an extensive collection of bare-all confessions.
Stranger In The Alps opens with "Smoke Signals," a gorgeous guitar-led ballad that introduces Bridgers' breathy, distinct vocals. The tone is somber but what it lacks in vibrancy, it more than makes up for with sonic details that will have goosebumps crawling on your skin, like the swell of strings and poignant lyrics. Next comes "Motion Sickness," an upbeat percussion-based tune with major Sharon Van Etten similarities, especially during Bridgers' vocal crescendos and the pithy hook, "I have emotional motion sickness." Following one of the record's only uptempo tracks is "Funeral," a devastatingly gorgeous eulogy. A sparse folksy guitar rhythm strums along while Bridgers resignedly sings emotional lines like "I have this dream where I am screaming underwater / While my friends are all waving from the shore." The track is one of those songs that will ruin you with its honesty and desperation, but my god, is it lovely.
"Demi Moore" is next, a dreamy, slow-rolling bittersweet song about the loneliness and the unity of sexting. Following this is "Scott Street" which opens with a simple guitar line that allows for Bridgers' sad, skittish vocals to shine. Later, throbs of percussion merge with a fleeting electric swell and distant, wailing strings. On "Killer," a fascinating piano ballad, Bridgers' angelic voice delivers her most impressive songwriting. The piano is messy, almost schizophrenic in its low tones and quick high turns, mimicking the lyrical content as Bridgers questions "Can the killer in me tame the fire in you? / I know there's something waiting for us / I am sick of the chase but I'm stupid in love / And there's nothing I can do."
On "Georgia," genre-defying elements join together for an addictive piece of musical magic. Eerie, disjointed hints of R&B collide with sad-song harmonies, eventually erupting into a brilliant instrumental explosion as Bridgers voice is at its most desperate and impassioned. "Chelsea" is next, a sweet folk song with minimal arrangements, led mostly by creeping, soaring vocals that mesmerize during the chorus. Next on "Would You Rather," soft strumming leads the instrumentation, and fellow melancholy musician (and mini-mentor for Bridgers) Conor Oberst offers his voice. A cover of "You Missed My Heart," originally by singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek, comes next, a tender and soothing version that finds shaky vocals and a stripped-down arrangement calling to mind the bare-bones, moving performances of Nashville singer-songwriter, Julien Baker. Stranger In The Alps comes to a close with a 30 second instrumental reprise of "Smoke Signals," the album's opener, a vivid plucking that comes and goes.
Stranger In The Alps acts as a crushing confessional for the 23-year-old artist's manic mind. Rich layers of quiet strings and pulses of percussion provide impressive background noise, but Bridgers' strong, sweet vocals lead each track, as do her raw lyrics. On her debut album, Phoebe Bridgers stuns and inspires with a decadent blend of honest desperation and matter-of-fact misery.