ARTIST : PHOEBE BRIDGERS

ALBUM : PUNISHER

LABEL: DEAD OCEANS

RATING : 9/10


WORDS : MALVIKA PADIN

Prolific singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers has often combined her high, soaring voice with eccentric lyricism to deliver a unique brand of grunge-pop and emo-folk. Two and a half years after her breakthrough debut Stranger in the Alps, Bridgers takes a step forward in refining the already fully-formed artistry she’s come to be known for with long-awaited record, Punisher. Sharp edged lyrics are softened by blurred soundscapes of guitars and keyboards, as Bridgers leads the offering with her unhurried, dreamy voice. 

On Punisher,Bridgers proves that she is unafraid to experiment

Opening with instrumental track ‘DVD Menu’, the album delivers back-to-back interpretations of heartbreak, broken faith, desperation, self-destruction and recovery with sombre sonic arrangement and raw, poignant introspection. Following track ‘Garden Song’ brings Bridger’s song writing front and centre with simplistic yet impactful nostalgic musings.

The offering is largely downcast and stripped back particularly tracks  such as ‘Halloween’ and ‘Moon Song’, both of which fall back comfortably onto the Pasadena native singer’s signature emo-folk sound. However, a fine balance is maintained with the playfully reluctant rock-tinged chorus of early standout ‘Kyoto’ and the dramatic stylings of ‘I See You’. 

this is Phoebe Bridgers at her best, and whatever comes next will only be better

On Punisher,Bridgers proves that she is unafraid to experiment ; whether its unravelling an ambitious melody – featuring instrumentation with optigan flutes, celestes, and tongue drums- on ‘Saviour Complex’ or playing around with country-infused, banjo-driven ‘Graceland Too’ , the sonic palette is varied, organic and dazzling. But the highlight of the album comes in the form of intellectual track ‘Chinese Satellite’, which draws from an expansive world of literary and musical influences including Joan Didion, Jackson Browne , John Prine and Joni etc. Elevated by Bridgers quirky yet understated lyricism as she sings – “I wish I wrote it/but I didn’t, so I learned the words.”The singer is surer of herself and her abilities as a songwriter this time around as seen on both ‘Chinese Satellite’ and the relatable nervosa of “I.C.U.”

Final track ‘I Know The End’ pulls Punisher into a kaleidoscope of sounds that crescendos into a disorienting pop dystopia. The closing minutes bring forth a surprising yet welcome chaos, as cacophonous instrumentals of horns, crashing cymbals, guitar feedback are added to a lacerating chorus before it fades into Bridgers’ quiet laughter – the following silence weighs heavy as it leaves in its wake the knowledge that this is Phoebe Bridgers at her best, and whatever comes next will only be better. 

Punisher is out now via Dead Oceans

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