Phoebe Bridgers delivers a defining record in latest release Punisher
It is rare that I hear a song or album and instantly think "well this is going to be a defining moment". I thought it when I heard Hockey Dad’s Dreamin’ and knew that lots band out of Wollongong was going to try and catch this same lightning in a bottle, I thought it when I saw Cry Club perform live for the first time and thought "this is one of the most iconic live shows I’ve ever seen" and I thought it when I heard Modern Baseball’s You’re Gonna Miss It All for the first time and realised that if I used the right chords people might care about my own struggles in life and love.
In June of this year I had another one of those moments when I listened to Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers for the first time. As I sat in my room in the dark, the hiss from my cheap record player being drowned out by the enveloping soundscape at the start of DVD Menu I knew this album was going to be something special. When we posted on social media earlier in the week ‘What have new music have you been listening to?’ we got an overwhelming response that Punisher was already in the front running for many people’s album of the year and I think both of us here at Homegrown Sounds agree. I have been aware of Phoebe Bridgers for some time now but honestly have only really listened to the singles from previous releases and known her work in other projects. As a whole, the album tells separate stories that touch on themes of love, loss, pain, joy and being lost and yet as a whole the album gives a view on the life of the artist told in raw truths and incredible music.
The album features a dream line up of emo/alt country artists like Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, Conner Oberst and Tomberlin, as well as an incredible list of session musicians. But as a whole the album stands as something that only Bridgers could have come up with.
A particular highlight for me is the track Chinese Satellite, on which long time collaborators Conner Oberst and Michael Vore have been given writing credits. The song stands out to me as the production takes what is an already incredible vocal and guitar part and elevates it into something more, something that blurs the line of genre and something that guides listeners through a range of emotions in its three and a half minutes.
Took a tour to see the stars, But they weren't out tonight So I wished hard on a Chinese satellite I want to believe Instead I look at the sky and I feel nothing, You know I hate to be alone I want to be wrong
This album opens up a more and more common conversation in the world of alternative music, especially music that leans heavily on honest and heartfelt lyrics. The hard-line is often drawn that 'over production' takes away from the emotional weight of a song-writer’s lyrics and performance and as artists and engineers we should be leaning toward a minimal and 'real' feeling on songs for this audience or space. I think that this album is the latest (and potentially the best) in a long line of releases that manage to have impactful and real story telling in its lyrical content and musicianship as well as feature incredible production throughout that only lends itself to further driving home the emotional message of each song.
I hope this album will be a defining moment. I know for me as a listener and musician it is. I think that in the emo/folk-punk/alt country space this album will be a touchstone for years to come when the discussion of production vs ‘raw and real’ recording comes up. But more than that I hope this album will inspire a generation of non-male singer-songwriters, I hope that Bridgers as an artist continues to be a strong and loud voice for women in the music industry and I hope that at least one person hears this and thinks that there may be a chance that they could do something with their own heartbreaking stories and turn them into art that can move people and bring them together.