For fans of Phoebe Bridgers' affecting indie-folk and first-class meme game, it's been a damn fine few days. First, we saw the promised release of a Goo Goo Dolls' 'Iris' cover with Maggie Rogers, becoming both artist's first #1 on the Digital Songs Sales Chart. Monday saw Bridgers share her annual Christmas song, her take on ‘If We Make It Through December,’ all proceeds to the Downtown Women’s Center, helping support homeless women in Los Angeles. She also chatted to Metallica's Lars Ulrich for Rolling Stones' Musicians on Musicians series.
Amongst all the charity singles with porno artwork and 'St. Anger' defense, she's also dropped a four-track E.P., which reworks material from her stellar sophomore effort, 'Punisher'. In a shitty year, it's a welcome treat for the ears. Calming, reflective, and naturally tear-inducing. Teaming up with multi-instrumentalist and arranger Rob Moose (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens), 'Copycat Killer', much like St. Vincents’ 'MassEducation' remix release, sees Bridgers songs stripped to their core, her intimate vocals accompanied only by spectral strings.
While ‘Punisher’ was hardly a party record, removing its brooding, dark energy reveals just how tender and fragile the songwriting is. However, this isn’t just one step up from an a capella record, Moose’s accompaniment soars, and subsidies, ensuring that this release doesn’t feel like a mere afterthought late in the release calendar. At a slight 12 minutes, it’s a brief coda to a strange year for the artist, but one fans will no doubt lap up.
Despite all the limitations the pandemic has caused, ‘Punisher’ has seen Bridgers’ star rise even higher, her heartfelt tunes and millennial humor soundtracking what, for many, is the most difficult time in their lives. By choosing ‘Kyoto,’ ‘Savior Complex,’ ‘Chinese Satellite’’ and the title track, the songwriter hasn’t only highlighted her most potent material to reimagine, but the ones which convey where she is as an artist. Themes of imposter syndrome, co-dependency, and isolation rear their ugly head, as well as overzealous fans and a nod to her biggest inspiration, Elliot Smith.
With your anticipated second album dropping during the most significant civil unrest in a generation on the backdrop of a pandemic, it's undoubtedly essential to take some distance and break down these songs anew with fresh eyes. A bittersweet treat to enjoy on these dark, cold nights - ideally in your skeleton onesie.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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