Review Summary: Long before I reach 100, I'll have fallen to the groundThe engine of a plane roars in the distance. Another death is in the air...
Phoebe Bridgers doesn’t beat around the bush on her debut effort, Stranger in the Alps.
It’s an album about coming to terms with death and depression, which she makes immediately evident in her blunt lyricism. On “Funeral”, she croons Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time/And that’s just how I feel/Always have, and always will.
Clearly not hallmark card material, but Phoebe Bridgers’ lyrics are a huge part of what makes Stranger in the Alps
so special. You don’t have to go out of your way to decipher them: they’re laid completely bare – practically staring you down. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that her intoxicating voice filters the depressing subject matter down to something much more beautiful and serene. Part Julien Baker and part Elliott Smith, her style is the perfect fit for the dark themes at hand.
Stranger in the Alps
is constantly stirring up feelings we can all relate to. It’s in the little things: the sound of a plane taking off in the distant background; the occasional strings and gentle piano melodies; a train boarding amidst the singer’s hazy aura. As Bridgers travels through these very real-life themes, she often goes for the jugular. On opener “Smoke Signals”, she tackles the deaths of David Bowie and Lemmy with such genuine character it seems to convey many of our
intangible emotions: It’s been on my mind since Bowie died/Just checking out to hide from life.
Going forward, things get much more personal for the indie-folk songwriter, but no less interesting. On “Killer”, she makes a stark request: When a machine keeps me alive, and I’m losing all my hair, I hope you kiss my rotten head and pull the plug. Now that I’ve burned every playlist, I’ve given all my love.
This depiction -- of being unafraid to leave the world from a life well-lived -- is the kind of passionate hard-hitter that makes you question your own life. I know I’m not ready to go yet, but Bridger’s lyrics just make me feel selfish and small.
As Stranger in the Alps
comes to a close with the reflective “You Missed My Heart” and twangy “Smoke Signals (Reprise)”, you’ll likely be feeling quite small as well. Phoebe Bridger’s ability to transcend our own thoughts is her greatest weapon. On album highlight, “Scott Street”, she waxes poetic on the common struggle we all face to just get through each day: I’ve got a stack of mail and a tall can/It’s a shower beer, it’s a payment plan.
Whether she’s touching on the impact of losing a legend like Bowie or battling her own demons, Strangers in the Alps
is a vibrant and rare debut that’s not afraid to tell it how it is.