Album Review: Phoebe Bridgers – “Stranger In The Alps”

The earliest memories I have after being diagnosed with depression date back to 2010. I always associate that time in my life with the music surrounding me, specifically the album The World We Know by I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business. Since then, there haven’t been many records to hit me as hard as that one – that’s what brings me to Phoebe Bridgers’ album Stranger In The Alps. When I say this record hit me, I mean this record REALLY hit me — a feeling I never thought I’d feel again. What’s so interesting about this album is that it draws you in immediately with the track “Smoke Signals.” The raw emotion that Bridgers’ voice displays is more than words in this review could ever describe.

Phoebe Bridgers is a relatively new artist, recognized for her tenure on Ryan Adams’ label, PAX AM, and her time as a tour-mate to Julien Baker. The 22-year old singer spent the better part of the past few years leading up to this effort, and the work she put in definitely shows stronger than you could ever hope.

“Motion Sickness” is the second track, with the opening line – “I hate you for what you did, and I miss you like a little kid,” a sentiment almost anyone can identify with. This song really pumps a lot of life into the record, especially so early on.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Bridgers’ songwriting prowess is the amount of honesty she includes in her songs. “Funeral,” the album’s third and most personal track, tells the story of Bridgers playing music at someone’s funeral – all while struggling with her own inner turmoil. “Last night I blacked out in my car, and I woke up in my childhood bed, wishing I was someone else, feeling sorry for myself – when I remembered someone’s kid is dead.” Something quite telling is this song being placed back to back with “Demi Moore,” a song about sending nude pictures to someone, in a time of desperation, later regretting this moment of weakness and wishing you could take it back.

The light percussion scattered throughout the record compliment the songs quite brilliantly, especially on “Scott Street.” Following this is the ballad, “Killer,” a re-imagined version of a song originally released as a 7” EP under Ryan Adams’ PAX AM. The new version hits a lot harder, and features harmonies from songwriter Ethan Gruska.

Conor Oberst lends his voice to the duet “Would You Rather.” Oberst coats the track as a somber yet fitting companion to Bridgers. The song is a bookend to the album’s haunting closer, “You Missed My Heart.” Although a cover of a Mark Kozelek 2013 song, it finds new life with Bridgers and quaintly ends the emotional record.

To summarize, this album is nothing short of incredible. I feel lucky to have experienced these songs and honored that Phoebe Bridgers shared her art with the world. It makes me, as a listener, feel something I haven’t felt in many years.  I highly recommend it.

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