REVIEW: phoebe bridgers's sophomore effort, "punisher"
I’m sitting on my parents’ front porch, waiting for a thunderstorm to roll in and push me inside, while Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore album flows through my headphones. The setting and the music align - Punisher is an album full of haunting imagery and cries of yearning. It only feels right to listen to it while I wait for the weather to change.
It’s taken me quite a while to begin to write this review because every time I open my computer, pull up a fresh doc, and press play, I find myself flipping the lights off, curling up in bed, and wallowing in the sweet depression treat that is Phoebe Bridgers’ discography. We all know how good Stranger in the Alps was, but I honestly might even go so far as saying Punisher even tops it?
Bridgers draws inspiration from dreams, and it truly translates into the songs. The world is on pause while you listen to the album; it’s just you and the music, floating through space. It all feels very meditative. The lyrics include personal, very specific details, while still managing to feel bigger than us. The songs bleed into each other perfectly. Punisher grapples with topics ranging from painful relationships and Bridgers’ obsession with Elliott Smith, all the way to whether or not aliens and God exist.
I really wish I were able to pick a favorite song off of this album, but every single one of them competes for first place for me. All ten songs, plus the intro, feel purposeful and contribute to the wonderful spooky serenity the album takes on. “Graceland Too” is among the most beautiful on the record, while “Moon Song” uses a metaphor of a dog carrying a dead bird to describe a one-sided relationship. One of the standouts is “Chinese Satellite,” an anthem of longing for something more - a sudden shift in your life, excitement, the hope we’re not alone in the universe. Regarding the song, Bridgers told Apple Music, “If I’m being honest, this song is about turning 11 and not getting a letter from Hogwarts, just realizing that nobody’s going to save me from my life… I mean, secretly, I am still waiting on that letter, which is also that part of the song, that I want someone to shake me awake in the middle of the night and be like, ‘Come with me. It’s actually totally different than you ever thought.’”
That hope to be shaken awake carries over to the final song on Punisher. “I Know The End” might just be the most epic album closer I’ve ever heard. The feeling it gave me was comparable to the one I had listening to Harry Styles’ “Fine Line.” The song opens softly, focusing on homesickness, then moves to a drive up the California coast. The music builds and builds, and you can feel it growing in your bones, and then you’re shouting along with the chorus of vocalists, accepting, “the end is here.”
This is a seriously magical album. Punisher is an indie masterpiece that brings its listeners off the ground and into another world. Bridgers does an insane job of capturing a specific emotion and allowing it to live on in each song. It’s a mandatory listen for anyone who has ever felt anything at all.