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Album reviews
Artist:
Phoebe Bridgers
Album:
Punisher
Release year:
2020
Label:
Dead Oceans
30 June 2020 / by Ana Constantin (author)

At 25 years young, folk rock singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers released her newest album Punisher this June 2020. Despite its harsh name, the impression it leaves is a warm one. Her darkly whimsical songs draw you in from the first instrumental track appropriately titled “DVD Menu”. Bridgers’ soft vocals ring sweet in her melodies and the songs blend together seamlessly apart from more rock-influenced tracks like “Punisher”, “Kyoto” and “I Know the End”.

Collectively the album walks you through sentiments of depression, tour travels abroad, wild dreams, and honest depictions of relationships which are not glorified but raw - sometimes disappointing, sometimes brimming with promise, and sometimes totally dysfunctional. The ballad “Moon Song” revolves around her complicated relationship with ex-lover, bandmate and songwriter behind Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst: “So I will wait for the next time you want me/ Like a dog with a bird at your door”. 

The title track “Punisher” doesn’t allude to medieval cruelty: in an interview with Apple Music Bridgers explains the term as what you call a fan who doesn’t get the hint to stop talking when meeting a celebrity idol. She admits to being guilty of this behaviour herself, especially in her hypothetical scenario of meeting her musical inspiration Elliot Smith: “I can’t open my mouth and forget how to talk/’Cause even if I could/Wouldn’t know where to start/Wouldn’t know when to stop”.  

Her hit upbeat single ,“Kyoto” has fanfares and lots of loud percussion, much like in the latter half of the track “I Know The End” which also has a distorted screamo vocal track to end off the album in high energy.

On “Graceland Too”, the vibe lightens up as the artist dips into the country-folk genre with what sounds like a banjo and fiddle instrumental. Also, her songwriting no longer exudes apathy, instead it feels happy and celebrates liberty and triumph over anything holding you back from doing what you want. 

“Garden Song” and “Halloween” are more forgettable musically speaking and yet Bridgers still paints a vivid picture with her lyrical genius at least in the former track. The lyrics of “Garden Song” appear to be a metaphor for her rebirth or growth in life and the path towards a rosier future away from (belt?) notches and to a place where she’s less resentful.

With all that said, Punisher is more than what meets the eye when looking at the grungy red-light album cover of Phoebe Bridgers wearing a skeleton outfit in the middle of an open desert at night. It’s a little scary, very sweet and seriously not to be underestimated for its lyrical complexity and chill melodies. 

 

The author

Ana Constantin

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