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Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger In The Alps

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Oct 4, 2017.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    The connection found amongst shared interests within pop culture can be the catalyst for some of the strongest bonds in life. A terrible day capped off by the most mundane social event, spent staring at carpets with a drink in hand, can be altered by the moment another human mentions a band you love or nonchalantly slips a quote from your favorite sitcom into conversation; ears prick up from across the room, time stops for a second, a small spark and a “me too” moment occurs. In January of this year, 23-year-old Phoebe Bridgers released “Smoke Signals,” and it managed to hone in on that precise feeling. Packed with references to Bowie, Lemmy, Thoreau’s Walden, The Smiths, and a guitar line that emulates the Twin Peaks theme, the song encapsulates the warm-glow of discovering a connection via a first conversation with someone. It’s a masterclass in introspection and nostalgia that transcends boundaries in a way that it could soundtrack any one of our very own memory trips.

    It’s this intimate, conversational approach of Bridgers that makes her debut album Stranger In The Alps a gut-punch of a triumph. The sheer candor and familiarity as foundations are rare to find but the listener has a goldmine here, resulting in one of the most rewarding and affecting records of the year.

    Bridgers’s dream-like vocals are the most prevalent component and the tidal changes of subject matter are delivered with a particular flow that swims between gentle grace, jarring heartache and effortless acerbity. Whilst the majority of the time the vocals exist in soft tones and sweet falsettos, Phoebe Bridgers is also blessed with a range capable of exploding – but it’s a side handled with heavy self-moderation. There’s a moment at the end of the re-recorded version of “Georgia” which allows a peek at the unhinged side of her voice as she belts out:

    Will you have me or watch me fall?
    If I fix you will you hate me?
    Would you fuck this and let us fall?

    It’s an isolated incident and consequently a refreshing display of restraint that lives throughout Stranger In The Alps, which further lends to its charm and considered approach.

    It’s not an uncommon characteristic for a singer-songwriter to bring lyrical storytelling to the forefront of their output, however with Bridgers it seems to sit on a different plain – there’s an unwavering and brutal honesty that informs the lyricism in her material. Each song is a frame of a larger scene, where moments are put under a microscope and the minutiae of a life experience are dissected and highlighted to expose the barest of emotions. Where heaviness and sometimes frank bleakness could be otherwise mishandled or considered trite, there’s nothing but devastating sincerity here. When this unravelling occurs – due to Bridgers’s aforementioned close, conversational approach – we witness moments of breathtaking introspection which are almost voyeuristic in their nature. The portrayal of a glimpse into someone else’s inner-monologue, fueled by a stream-of-consciousness, is so startling that as a listener, you almost daren’t breathe to upset the genuine flow:

    And 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.
    And then I remembered someone’s kid is dead.

    … she laments on “Funeral,” followed closely by one of the more harrowing moments on the album:

    Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time.
    And that’s just how I feel.
    Always have. And always will.

    Stranger In The Alps also takes a “less is more” approach with the music and production to allow the intricacies and vocals to flourish with ghostly effect. Whether it’s the halloween-like high synth lines that hovers over “Demi Moore” and “Georgia”, the highly reverberated electronic percussion that lies under “Chelsea,” guest vocals from John Doe on “Killer” and Conor Oberst on “Would You Rather,” or the most delicate fluttering sound as the arpeggiated keys whirl round on album closer (and Mark Kozelek cover) “You Missed My Heart” – there’s very careful and deliberate touches that exist only to serve the songs and emphasize a tone and mood precisely. There is no unnecessary embellishing or over-complicating, just flecks and shimmers of noise that lift a song because the truth and awe lies in the rawness and base of each song in Bridgers’s catalogue. Everything is wrapped up and delivered so concisely with the album closer, a song originally by an artist that Phoebe admits to adoring with some levels of personal conflict, yet it’s made completely her own to the point of emotional arrestment. All that exists is hypnotizing keys, stark and solitary vocals in the verses, self-harmonized and layered choruses and that slightly anxious flickering in the background that highlights her re-telling of a devastating story and encourages us to form a mental projection of the visuals via an old movie reel. It’s ethereal, captivating and mesmerizing.

    The best records become the most reliable companions, lending themselves to a myriad of emotions and mental spaces. Stranger In The Alps is eerie but mainly due to its familiarity. Whether in subject matter, the open-book nature of how it presents itself, or in the sublime delicacy of each song, it’s an album that comforts and fascinates with each listen and leaves a mark that remains long after the last frame fades out.

  2. ale5875


    Masterpiece. I thought After Laughter was going to be my AOTY, but I'm not so sure about that anymore...
    Chase Tremaine and Turkeylegz like this.
  3. Turkeylegz


    This is such a good album. Also, her being buddies with Julian Baker makes me happy. I need them to buddy up on a tour!
  4. justin.

    Trusted Supporter

    AOTY contender. I didn’t think I would consider anything else after Science Fiction.
    Chase Tremaine and Turkeylegz like this.
  5. justin.

    Trusted Supporter

    They toured together last April but I didn’t listen to Phoebe then and didn’t know what I was missing out on.
    Turkeylegz likes this.
  6. Turkeylegz


    Damn. Me either.
  7. Wall Of Arms


    Legit fighting for the top spot in my AOTY. Thanks to all of those who read this.
  8. noKings


    First learned about Phoebe when these two toured together about 1.5 years ago. It was great.
    Turkeylegz likes this.
  9. noKings


    Only thing is that tracks 1 and 2 were singles released and then 6/7 were previously released songs redone. I still love it all, but feels like I'm getting an EP with this.
  10. Donnie Ruth

    Trusted Supporter

    I've never heard of her before, but I swear that's one of the best album covers I've ever seen.

    Great review to convince me to check this out and I am not regretting it. Wow.
    Chase Tremaine and Wall Of Arms like this.
  11. Ryan G

    Moderator Moderator

    Easily one of the best records of the year. So good. Really enjoyed this review.
    Chase Tremaine and Wall Of Arms like this.
  12. Matt Chylak

    I can always be better, so I'll always try. Supporter

    Props on getting through a long review without writing the name "Elliot Smith". It's all I can hear on stretches of this album.
    Wall Of Arms likes this.
  13. Matt Chylak

    I can always be better, so I'll always try. Supporter

    Great review!
    Wall Of Arms likes this.
  14. jco3


    Wow, just listened to "Smoke Signals" and it's fantastic. Really digging this and am excited to listen to the whole album.
    Wall Of Arms likes this.
  15. yeahrightdude

    Trusted Prestigious

    Nice review! This album is great. Motion Sickness has been stuck in my head since Monday.
    Chase Tremaine and Wall Of Arms like this.
  16. Wall Of Arms


    So pleased you were encouraged to listen!

    Thanks mate xo

    Ha, yeah I was really conscious of not wanting to throw in sound-a-likes for this review. The references in "Smoke Signals" by her, herself seemed enough name-dropping. But I'm with you, big Elliott vibes too.
    Ryan Gardner and Jason Tate like this.
  17. Sooooooooooo gooooooooood
  18. 246toothpicks


    seimagery likes this.
  19. CMilliken


    Great review for a fantastic album. Been an evening listen most nights for the past week for me.
    Wall Of Arms likes this.
  20. Wall Of Arms


    Thank you very much. Yeah my indie vinyl pressing of it came through a couple of days ago so my evenings have been thoroughly improved by having that on.
    CMilliken likes this.
  21. CMilliken


    Still need to pick up a copy on vinyl. Plan on doing that very soon.
    Wall Of Arms likes this.
  22. Bartek T.

    D'oh! Prestigious

    That's a perfect review, you pointed out all the interesting info, but made it mostly about Phoebe. The resemblance to the carpet-stares situation is so well put! Love this album absolutely, one of my most-listened-to these times now! I was also afraid there's too many old songs on it, but they're all astonishingly re-imagined, so good!
  23. Wall Of Arms


    Thank you so much, that's really great to hear and so kind.
    Bartek T. likes this.
  24. I really enjoy this record, but it's a little too top heavy for me to put it in my top records this year. Definitely an artist to watch out for though! I love this renaissance of singer-songwriter types.
  25. sleepy

    pale earnhardt jr.

    Love this record.

    Funny story... Was listening to this at work yesterday during some down time on spotify and I guess my girl went to listen to something at home and fucking Limp Bizkit came on mid song (from what I was listening to on the record) and I was like wtf?
    Hit her up and she was amused........... BUT the title alone made her wanna peep the album cus of the Big Lebowski shit lol.

    So Phoebe got herself a new fan, funny route it went about happening lol.
    ale5875 likes this.