Drowning In Phoebe Bridgers’ Brutal, Minimal Debut ‘Stranger In The Alps’

09.21.17 4 weeks ago

Frank Ockenfels

The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.

Phoebe Bridgers drowns over and over on her debut album, Stranger In The Alps. She drowns in her dreams; then she wakes up and drowns in love and alcohol and smoke and death and her past. And she drowned me, too. When I first heard the album I was stuck in an unrequited love, and the combination purged everything else from my system as if no other melodies or feelings had ever existed — an endless horizon of blue. And no matter how frantically I tried to swim away, the album smacked like a white-capped whip, and thrust me back under.

Bridgers is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. That might conjure a certain image and sound, especially as Miley Cyrus finds a muse in Malibu and Julia Michaels slips her fingerprints on every other pop song. California stereotypes are youthful exuberance, sun-kissed guitars, and synths swelling as immaculately azure as waves. But Bridgers feels like a product of the other coast; her voice is windswept and muted; her lyricism is cold and blobby and blurry, until it crashes in torrents of brutal heartbreak.

The first three songs off Stranger In The Alps are maybe the most sublime, devastating thirteen consecutive minutes of music you’ll hear this year. Each song is a grand opus and one third of a crushing narrative arc; an arc that I lived this summer.

“Smoke Signals,” the first song, begins at the peak of a romance. “I went with you up to the place you grew up in / We spent a week in the cold,” are the first whispered lines, and immediately we’re submerged in the vivid imagery of two deeply intertwined lives — from rebellious joyrides, to Smiths listening sessions, to peaceful reservoir walks. There’s no linear narrative, just shards of memories wafting in and out of illogical jumbles. As an entry point into her artistry, it’s extremely disorienting.

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