The music of Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers is emotional, intimate, witty, and incredibly relatable. It’s easy to see why Ryan Adams produced and released her 2015 EP, Killer, on his record label. It’s also easy to see why Conor Oberst and Julien Baker tapped her to support their tours when hearing her first LP, Stranger in the Alps, which was released on Friday.
Stranger in the Alps starts out with the gorgeous “Smoke Signals”, featuring Bridgers singing over mostly guitar before this big reverb-infused guitar cuts through and gets joined by this beautiful layer of strings.
“Motion Sickness” is a bit of a rocker with some drums, bass, and some sweet organ, opening with the lyrics “I hate you for what you did / and I miss you like a little kid”. It also has this great chorus of “I have emotional motion sickness, somebody roll the windows down.” “Funeral” starts out with some heavy distortion before giving way to this really gorgeous acoustic track about singing at a funeral.
“Scott Street” is the perfect example of why Bridgers is one of the finest, new song-crafters. It, like many tracks on the record, starts out mostly acoustic, but instruments join in the fray. Perfectly, right as the drums kick in, Bridgers sings, “I asked you how was playing drums? / said it’s too much shit to carry”. As the song builds, Bridgers unveils her soul. She asks him, “Do you feel ashamed when you hear my name?”, but no answer is provided. All we hear is a chorus of ooh’s, strings, and a bunch of other sounds, including a bicycle bell, horn, and train whistle. The fantastic closing breaks the silence, which at this point she sings sadly, “Don’t be a stranger”. It’s fantastic.
The next two tracks, “Killer” and “Georgia”, were on her 2015 EP. Both are gorgeous acoustic numbers, but have a new life on Stranger in the Alps. She’s moved both tracks to piano turning the former into a spellbinding duet while the latter is transformed into a big, electronic track laden with strange percussion and a little pedal steel.
On the final two tracks, Bridgers wears her influences on her sleeve. “Would You Rather” is this great track that is reminiscent of Julien Baker, right before we’re treated with the voice of Conor Oberst. The closer, “You Missed My Heart”, is a cover of a Sun Kil Moon song, and it is one hell of a finish, especially Bridgers’ arrangement.
Bridgers paints these vivid pictures throughout her songs, describing relationships, specific moments, and other emotional events in time. It gets a bit personal, but it’s always relatable. The music is beautifully constructed with strings, delicately finger-picked guitar, and piano throughout. She gets loud on a few tracks, and they really stand out. Stranger in the Alps is one of the strongest debut records in a long time, and definitely a strong candidate to occupy year-end “Best of” and “Favorites” lists, including our own.
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