Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher is a no-skip album. Each song is different yet fits cohesively into the overall sound: a mix of acoustic, indie rock and swirling synths. Sometimes avoiding rhyme altogether, Bridgers lyrics are bittersweet, cynical and funny, jumping between memory, dream and fantasy through introspective fragments. ‘Moon Song’ is her most lyrically accomplished, featuring the poetic line: ‘I will wait for the next time you want me / Like a dog with a bird at your door.’ How on earth does she manage to perform it on stage without bursting into tears?
My most-listened-to track on the album is the titular ‘Punisher’. Bridgers’ double-tracked vocals and melancholic harmonies create a nostalgic sound, due to the influence of her favourite artist, Elliot Smith. Bridgers addresses Smith directly in the song, expressing her devotion to him as a fan and her sadness that he died before she could meet him. She plays into the fantasy, imagining Smith living in a storybook house with Snow White. The opening notes to the chorus are reminiscent of ‘Once Upon a Dream’ from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, the melody diverging as Bridgers admits that her attachment to Smith is entirely one-sided. Throughout the album, she battles between pessimism and a desire to communicate with something beyond reality, whether it’s a dead singer, God, aliens, or the supernatural. The contrast gives the album its haunting quality. Bridgers comes across as the straightforward girl-next-door, just otherworldly enough to remain surprising. It’s a comfort album with a sufficient dose of escapism.
Featured Image Source: Still via Phoebe Bridgers // YouTube