Stranger In The A
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Stranger in the Alps
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Phoebe Bridgers wrote her first song at age 11, spent her adolescence at open mic nights, and busked through her teenage years at farmers markets in her native Los Angeles. By age 20, she'd caught the ear of Ryan Adams, who listened to her perform her song "Killer" in his L.A. studio, inviting her to come back and record it there the next day. The session blossomed into the three-song ‘Killer’ EP, released to much acclaim on Adams’s Pax-Am label in 2015. In the two short years since, Bridgers has toured or played with Conor Oberst, Julien Baker, City and Colour, Violent Femmes, Mitski, Television and Blake Babies among others. On September 22nd, Phoebe Bridgers will release her debut full-length, Stranger In The Alps. From the weeping strings and Twin Peaks twangs of opening track Smoke Signals, to the simple heartbreak of Funeral and melancholic crescendo of Scott Street, Stranger in the Alps is a swooningly beautiful record with a gothic heart.
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Also reviewed on my Instagram: finelytunedsounds
Bridgers has been touted frequently by Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and has even been known to cover him during her live shows, and this relationship makes a great deal of sense. Bridgers has Oberst's lyrical genius, weaving seamlessly between the hyper-personal and the resoundingly universal. She can strike you with the specificity of a diary entry ("Singing 'Ace of Spades' when Lemmy died, but nothing's changed. LA's all right.") or make you feel less alone with pause-giving insight ("Can the killer in me tame the fire in you? Is there nothing left to do for us?"). While her live shows are often defined by sparseness and buoyed exclusively by her unbelievable voice and minimalistic guitar-playing, the arrangements on Stranger in the Alps maintain her folk ethos but add an otherworldliness to her sound with everything from haunting echoes to subtle drum pulsing. And although there is a noticeable difference between her recorded sound and her live sound, none of this compromises the bottom line: every song on this record has the weight of a single. Each track has an unforgettable hook, a gorgeous vocal performance, and mesmerizing lyrics. She has much of the natural songwriting ability Conor Oberst has had since the beginning, and her debut album feels, in many ways, like a slightly more accessible I'm Wide Awake It's Morning or Fevers and Mirrors.
Phoebe Bridgers has everything she needs to take off, and while there has been some critical acclaim for this, it deserves to be in the conversation of 2017's best. If you love Julien Baker, Bright Eyes, Waxahatchee, and other similar acts, this will likely become one of your very favorite releases not just of the year, but of all time.
It's a bunch of sad songs, sure, but listening to it isn't going to make you feel sad. It will rather be a catharsis where the beauty within lifts you out and up; you'll feel happier as you escape inside the light contrasted by the darkness Phoebe paints. Those harmonies and soft haunting voice will fix everything.
There's a vocal cameo from Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes in track 9 "Would You Rather." - I would be dishonest to say I wasn't a little disappointed in the first moments I heard it, because I had heard about it and was looking forward to it... Conor Oberst singing along with Phoebe Bridgers! He first sings in a practically-spoken way "I'm a can on a string, you're on the end" - (We found our way out) - "Of a suicide pact of our family and friends." But, honestly, even shortly thereafter, and by the end of the song, everything is made right, he sings a true duet with her. "Next time I see you, you'll show me a hundred different ways to say the same things." The more I hear it, the more I can handle it, and I have soon grown to love all of it.
I had the opportunity to hear Phoebe on tour with Conor Oberst and she was amazing, powerful, and haunting live, but the album has a richness added to it. Everything has so much texture - it's spooky, sad, happy, eager, all at the same time. - In actual real life, sadly, Phoebe can't harmonize with herself. But that's why you're buying this album, because being able to experience listening to every single song here is worth every penny. Enjoy a great purchase!