An Old Friend or a Stranger in the Alps – Rediscover Phoebe Bridgers

Bridgers debut album Stranger in the Alps (a reference to the TV version of ‘The Big Lebowski’) is perhaps even more relevant currently than it was when originally released in 2017. The album contains haunting, sporadic instrumentals, but it is perhaps the paradisiacal lyricism throughout that demonstrates Bridgers true talent. 

Themes of depression, death and a sense of ever increasing dread are weaved throughout the tracks, yet the sense one gets after listening is more one of cautious optimism. Bridgers extraordinary ability to convey emotion through her music creates an album in which every track feels deeply personal, no matter your current situation. Now, more than ever, the work seems to be able to create a sense of hope despite the ongoing crisis being faced globally – which may be just what we need. 

Taking a closer look at the album, Bridgers starts off strong with ‘Smoke Signals’, a particularly melancholy track detailing a relationship with someone who “must have been looking for me”. The gentle melody scattered with purposefully plucked bass notes serves as a fitting backdrop for lyrics that reference pop culture moments such as Bowie and Lemmy’s deaths and ‘How Soon Is Now’ by The Smiths. Perhaps one of Bridgers best lines of the entire album fits into this track, with her proclaiming “I want to live at the Holiday Inn, where somebody else makes the bed”. Her understated yet perfectly placed vocals only add to the sense of escapism and a desire to break away from convention that many of us will have experienced at some point in our lives. 

Moving on to the second track, ‘Motion Sickness’ is perhaps the most well-known song from the album, but this doesn’t make it any less fascinating. ‘Motion Sickness’ recounts Bridgers experience in an emotionally abusive relationship with an older man (“you were in a band when I was born”), and the pain he caused her both during and after their time together. Even if you personally haven’t been in a similar situation, Bridgers lyrical expertise creates a song that anyone can find a piece of themselves within. Her use of metaphor to liken her toxic relationship to drug use “I try to stay clean and live without” is particularly clever, and can be applied not only to romantic relationships, but platonic also. 

As you progress through the album, Bridgers deeply personal style of song writing becomes more evident. On ‘Funeral’, she discusses the heroin overdose of one of her close friends, and her obsession with the inevitability of death becomes apparent, however it isn’t distasteful –  Bridgers exploration of her own death on the later track ‘Killer’ helps her to cope with her fear of abandonment and her insecurities. Her attitude towards the demise of herself and others is wise beyond her years, and this comes across beautifully when combined with her soulful, sweet vocals and powerful yet gentle instrumentals. 

Possibly the most underrated track on the album comes in the form of ‘Demi Moore’, a simple yet moving piece that conveys an intense need for company and a desire to not ‘be stoned anymore’. The interesting musical composition of this track only adds to the overwhelming emotional response this song can provoke. Bridgers opening line “Take a dirty picture babe, I can’t sleep and I miss your face” seems to suggest a desire for genuine human connection rather than a simple moment of sexual gratification. This is highlighted in the refrain “I don’t want to be alone anymore”, and her emotional vulnerability throughout the entire album (especially on tracks such as Funeral and Scott Street) further adds to the personal nature of the project. 

Phoebe Bridgers proved herself as one to watch with this outstanding debut album, and her latest release Punisher did not disappoint. However, in uncertain times, Stranger in the Alps can offer a sense of calm and hope. Bridgers uncanny ability to connect with her audience whilst at the same time creating something so deeply personal is special, and is definitely worth a listen – now more than ever.

Words by Tabitha Wilson.

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