When LA-born, singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers released her single ‘Killer’ in 2015, the Ryan Adams-produced track was highly praised. Two years later and with support slots for Julien Baker and Conor Oberst under her belt, the 22-year-old has now released her wonderfully sad full-length debut.
Stranger In The Alps is an invigorating, honest account of millennial pain; the record poetically addresses the reality of grievance, heartbreak and acceptance. Featuring vintage drum machines and a violin, the foundations of the album are built upon an acoustic guitar and delicate piano melodies that create a unique Nashville-inspired sound far from its original folk categorisation.
Establishing the album with the lead single, ‘Smoke Signals’ – a country ballad originally written in Idaho – the track introduces the main themes and references the passing of lost idols such as David Bowie and Lemmy. ‘Motion Sickness’ documents the frustrating breakdown of a relationship with lyrics such as, “I have emotional motion sickness, someone roll the windows down” – mocking her childish sensitivity.
The subtle balance of angst and honesty teamed with a familiar Haim-esque beat allows the track to stand out as a memorable tale.
The melancholic track ‘Funeral’ is dark and mournful, illustrating the death of a young friend. The lyric “Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time” touches on the subject of depression, whilst gracefully continuing to tackle the theme of mortality. The gentle melody forces Bridgers’ haunting vocals to the forefront, elegantly portraying beauty in an obvious time of sadness and reflection.
Both ‘Demi Moore’ and ‘Killer’ outline the fear of loneliness and the constant yearn for human connection. Blurring the line between desirability and vulnerability, ‘Demi Moore’ draws attention to the issue of self-deprecation in an anxiety-filled society.
Whilst ‘Georgia’ and ‘Would You Rather’ memorialize scenarios, the miserable yet introspective ‘You Missed My Heart’ is the perfect example of the intrinsic ability to disguise a narrative as a stream of consciousness.
The distressing description of wounding someone and then watching them “fall down as the morning sun rose” demonstrates Bridgers’ powerful, yet disturbingly obsessive process of centralising the listener as the protagonist. This talent designates the young songstress as a natural, effortless storyteller.
Stranger In The Alps’ sullen tone and translucent, witty humour and maturity, makes it is easily one of the best albums of the year.
Featured Image by Frank Ockenfels.
Words by Paige Sims.