Phoebe Bridgers

Stranger in the Alps

Dead Oceans

Sep 18, 2017 Issue #61 - Grizzly Bear Bookmark and Share


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Phoebe Bridgers' debut album is best listened to on starry midnight walks, head reeling with thoughts of lovers old and new.

The Los Angeles-based 22-year-old caught attention when her debut single "Killer" was released on Ryan Adams's Pax-Am label in 2015. Stranger in the Alps sensibly holds onto that early single, whose piano-driven jazz inflections stand out on an album of grungy guitar-led indie consumed by Bridgers' intimate vocal phrasing. The delicate ferocity of her voice and kick of lyrical angst rightfully place Bridgers in the same realm as revered artists Julia Jacklin and Angel Olsen.

While the individual elements of Stranger in the Alps are not particularly innovative, it is Bridgers' delivery that strikes at something unusually warm. Stand-out track "Motion Sickness" hits at both the familiarity she spawns with her youthful lyrics, and her controlled and nuanced observational skill. She acknowledges her childishness, singing "I hate you for what you did/and I miss you like a little kid," while still rendering the ability to mock her overbearing sensitivity with "I have emotional motion sickness/Somebody roll the windows down." Bridgers does amusing and heartfelt remarkably well, and sets it off with a wall of bluesy guitars.

On "Would You Rather," the L.A. County High School for the Arts graduate is joined by Conor Oberst, with whom she tours the U.S. this fall. The pairing of Oberst's raspy vocals with Bridgers' extends a tenderness, just as the delicate synth counter melodies of "Georgia" accentuate the sensitivity in the song's main melody.

Bridgers may prefer not to relive the memories of past relationships ("Do you feel ashamed/When you hear my name?" she asks on "Scott Street," as if this distance is one now too expansive to cross). But when her accounts are this sonically stunning, it's hard not to want to know every detail. (www.phoebefuckingbridgers.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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