Last month, 25 year-old musician Phoebe Bridgers released a new album entitled Punisher, which audiences are already hailing as one of the best records of the year. The eleven tracks explore all ranges of emotional trauma, from family tension, to personal anxieties, to literally your own breakup.
“I think there’s more humor in my music than people realize,” she says. “It’s pretty funny to me that you’re still not over your breakup, so I wanted to write about it. As a constant reminder. To you. Every time you hear my voice.”
Bridgers is perhaps known best for capturing the authenticity of such complex emotions in her narrative lyrics. “Yeah, so when I’m on the road, I love to go to CVS. Nine times out of ten, if I see a CVS, I will go in, and nine times out of ten I will buy nothing. And this one time when I went in to buy nothing, I overheard you guys fighting in the shampoo aisle. This is actually what inspired Punisher.”
These intimate moments are most apparent in the tracks “Savior Complex” and “Moon Song”. In the first, Bridgers sings “Baby, you're a vampire / You want blood and I promised / I'm a bad liar / With a savior complex,” emphasizing how you launched yourself into this relationship to avoid your own problems. In “Moon Song”, listeners may be particularly haunted by the line, “So I will wait for the next time you want me / Like a dog with a bird at your door.” You are also haunted by it, in the deep hours of the night, every night, for obvious reasons.
Phoebe remarks, “The through line is that caring about someone who hates themselves is really hard, because they feel like you’re stupid.” In other words, Phoebe wants to you know that you are a big stupid dum dum.
And the artistry and innovation doesn’t stop there. In a departure from her last album, Strangers in the Alps, Bridgers embraces a variety of instruments and sounds on Punisher, such as the warm mellotron in “Kyoto” and mellow harmonies from her fellow Boygenius collaborators in “Graceland Too”. But none quite match up to the particularly evocative voice recordings of your very own screams from that night you scream-cried in the shower, which are sampled in “I Know The End.”
Bridgers characterizes Punisher as her most collaborative work to date. “Because I run the show, I can have some random person come play a tambourine if I think it’s funny,” she says. “Or I can ruin your entire day with a single phrase. Because I think it’s funny.”
There is no doubt that Phoebe Bridgers is already a rockstar at such a young age. But don’t let her sensational rise to success fool you. “I’m a fucking granny,” she says. “I don’t really drink, I don’t really smoke, so if I’m not in bed by 10 o’clock, I’m alone just watching Netflix. And so are you. So alone.”