Phoebe Bridgers
Punisher


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
September 18th, 2020 | 53 replies


Release Date: 06/19/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: There's a last time for everything

We need more folk artists who are willing to scream at the top of their lungs. For fans of Bridgers and her understated charm, the closing minutes of Punisher could only be characterized as a complete and utter shock. The album is lucid and tranquil in the face of a modern apocalypse; like laying out on a blanket stargazing while a meteor approaches. Never does Bridgers break character in the face of such calamity: the acoustic guitars sway gently, the drums form a series of muted splashes, and Phoebe’s meticulously crafted melodies float above it all, suspended like apparitions. Yet, during the curtain call ‘I Know The End’, Bridgers drops all pretense and screams hopelessly into the surrounding void. It’s the most honest and cathartic expression of her entire career because of its sheer, raw emotion – which is poignant in a way that no guitar solo or string section could possibly emulate. ‘I Know The End’ is what all of Punisher builds towards: a moment of private and global-scale reckoning that dares to re-imagine what it means to be a folk/indie singer-songwriter in 2020.

Prior to its climactic ending, Punisher gradually absorbs the listener with its plodding pace. First impressions can be unforgiving here – the melodies are less immediate than on her debut, the production can at times seem gratuitous, and the lyrics are a bit more difficult to untangle. As with most classic albums, however, Punisher defines its own atmosphere – this dark, starlit post-apocalyptic snow globe – and the more time you spend in that world, the more you’ll feel like a part of you belongs to it. Whether it’s the mystique of ‘Chinese Satellite’, where Bridgers mourns the loss of a loved one while simultaneously lamenting her own lack of faith (“I want to believe / Instead, I look at the sky and I feel nothing” / “Swore I could feel you through the walls / But that's impossible”) – or the more down-to-Earth ‘Graceland Too’ in which she details the struggle of caring about someone who hates herself (to the serenade of a folksy banjo) – Punisher intertwines the intimate and the profound seamlessly. You’re equally likely to find Bridgers singing about relationships and mental health issues as you are political/religious apocalypses, because in this world they’re one in the same. It could even be argued that ‘I Know The End’ isn’t a song about the end of the world, but rather about losing yourself: “I'm not afraid to disappear / The billboard said The End Is Near.”

Punisher takes all these swirling emotions – both on a micro and macro scale – and places them in a state of eerie calm. One common reaction to severe trauma is that the subject will, almost counterintuitively, become inundated by a sense of peace and heightened awareness. It’s not quite denial so much as it is the mind’s inability to digest what just happened, whether it’s a car accident or trying to process 9/11. That sensation feels an awful lot like Punisher – an album that looks at the world burning around it and retreats inward. As such, it’s both an immensely personal album as well as a commentary on the state of society. Punisher is a product of the times, but it’s also one that could have only been made by Phoebe Bridgers. She’s the only artist I can think of who has the ambition and elegance to tackle two crumbling worlds at the same time: the one in her mind, and the one outside her doorstep. It's an album characterized by its finality; a series of lasts in a time where preparing for the end is starting to feel less and less absurd.



s
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Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
September 18th 2020


36054 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I just felt like it, I dunno. Chan's review is better/less fanboyish.

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alamo
September 18th 2020


3303 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

that summary had me worried she died lol

Digging: Lidio Mateus - Determination

BlitzPhoenix98
September 18th 2020


57 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

YES! Ugh, what a beautiful album. Not often I burst into tears listening to something but this did it, everything after Kyoto is just pure sadness and hard to digest.

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
September 18th 2020


20439 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Good shit

JWT155
September 18th 2020


14669 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I want to love this but I can't.

Lucman
September 18th 2020


4843 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I was kind of in the same boat for awhile but man, this grew hard.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
September 18th 2020


1715 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review



average album tho

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 18th 2020


19501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

love the idea that an album’s sound and lyrics can signal both retreat/inwardness and a sense of trauma/externalized rupture. this is a really good review

tectactoe
September 18th 2020


3472 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

started off weaker than ‘Stranger in the Alps’ but grew on me significantly more, i definitely prefer it now.

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
September 18th 2020


20439 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Glad to see more people coming around to this (:

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 19th 2020


36054 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks everyone. This is cutting it close with the new Bright Eyes for my AOTY.

The funny thing is that I still think Better Oblivion Community Center is boring as fuck.

Lucman
September 19th 2020


4843 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

BOCC I haven't gone back to. It didn't wow me either.

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
September 19th 2020


57426 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice

Digging: Charli XCX - How I'm Feeling Now

dustandnations
September 19th 2020


345 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Summary lyric is my favourite moment here i LOVE IT

Sunnyvale
September 19th 2020


1791 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Sweet review, this is my first 5 to be released in years, AOTY for sure at this moment

SteakByrnes
September 19th 2020


21103 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Okay I guess you're just gonna delete any comment that doesn't talk about the music or review you loser, Kyoto bangs there

Digging: Motives - Death Throes

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 19th 2020


36054 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ok you get points for mentioning Kyoto, the comment stays 👏

SteakByrnes
September 19th 2020


21103 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lol

Dettlaff
September 19th 2020


432 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kyoto, I Know The End, Graceland Too and Savior Complex are all stellar (also Chinese Satellite is great). But then there are songs like Punisher, Halloween, Moon Song, and ICU which all range from dreadfully boring to passable.

Dettlaff
September 19th 2020


432 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"A slaughterhouse, an outlet mall

Slot machines, fear of God

Windows down, heater on

Big bolts of lightning hanging low

Over the coast, everyone's convinced

It's a government drone or alien spaceship

Either way, we're not alone

I'll find a new place to be from

A haunted house with a picket fence

To float around and ghost my friends

No, I'm not afraid to disappear"



This is my absolute favourite moment on this whole record. That subtle guitar effect or whatever is happening when she sings "Big bolts of lightning hanging low over the coast" and those triumphant horns elevating that build. Perfection.



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