All That Glitters is Gold - Smoke Signals: Phoebe Bridgers
This is All That Glitters is Gold, a recurring piece about some of my favorite artists, albums, tracks, and live shows. Here I will write about the music I love, most of which inspired me to start Alt Revue in the first place. I'm excited to highlight this music and talk about how it has impacted me. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into some of my favorites!
(Photo Credit - Frank Ockenfels)
I want to do a dive into one of my favorite artists out there who's had a relatively young career thus far, Phoebe Bridgers. But boy, has she done a lot in the short amount of time she's been active. She's released one EP in 2015, a sensational studio release in 2017, and formed two super groups, boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center, one of which had an amazing release in 2018 and the other in 2019! Additionally, she's played NPR's Tiny Desk three times, once solo, once with boygenius, and once with Better Oblivion Community Center! That doesn't even count the numerous collaborations and singles that she had put out in that time period. With all that in mind not even controversial for me to say she's one of the most prolific musicians in alt today. She's also made national headlines with fantastic musical appearances on late night television and as her music has appeared in television programs such as 13 Reasons Why.
I'm not going to break down each of her releases for you. Rather, I want to tell you about why they mean so much to me. Also, I want to touch on some of my favorite tracks and spots within them. All of this in my usual hope to inspire you to give Phoebe Bridgers a try if you haven't done so already.
Killer (2015) - This three track debut EP is impressive. It's composed of mostly acoustic tracks that highlight Bridgers' strong vocals. This album also highlights Bridgers' ability ability as a guitarist as well, a skill that she has continued to grow throughout her career. Another highlight of this early EP is that it shows Bridgers' masterful lyrical ability. I especially love her verses, like this one from "Killer": "Sometimes I think I'm a killer / Scared you in your house / I even scared myself by talking / About Dahmer on your couch / But I can't sleep next to a body/ Even harmless in death / Plus I'm pretty sure I'd miss you / And faking sleep to count your breath". While, Bridgers has always been a bit alt-folk, some of the tracks on this EP trend alt-country with their melodies which is fine by me. That can sometimes be a fine line anyway.
Favorite Songs - "Killer", "Georgia", and "Steamroller".
Stranger in the Alps (2017) - Stranger in the Alps opens with "Smoke Signals". It's low-key rhythm that echoes through right around the hook so reminds me of David Lynch's music in Twin Peaks, but better. It's hauntingly beautiful. Anytime a song can completely transport you, while also keeping your ear, that's magic. "Motion Sickness" was the big single from the album and if you haven't heard it, please correct this. Like immediately. It's a powerful song that discusses toxic relationships. As I've said one of my reasons for loving Bridgers as an artist is her immense songwriting ability. It's perhaps never on better display on the album than on the song "Scott Street". One line in particular that the first time I heard it made me jump was: "Walking Scott Street, feeling like a stranger / With an open heart, open container / I've got a stack of mail and a tall can / It's a shower beer it's a payment plan"."Would You Rather" is fantastic because it's where we get our first glimpse of the singing/songwriting partnership of Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk fame) who would later unite to become Better Oblivion Community Center. I've highlighted a couple of songs that are my particular favorites, but truth be told, I put the record on and listen to all of them with this one.
Favorite Songs - "Smoke Signals", "Motion Sickness", "Funeral", "Scott Street", "Killer", and "Would You Rather".
(Photo Credit - Lera Pentelute)
boygenius (2018) - 2018 was a magical time when three of my favorite artists, Phoebe Briders, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus united and formed the super group boygenius. Then boygenius put out a six track EP (which I immediately pre-ordered) and toured extensively. boygenius the EP was damn near Alt Revue's number 1 release of 2018. The EP is a masterclass on collaboration. You have three established artists who come in ego-less to create six songs that are genuinely beyond reproach. All three contributed to this work as songwriters and of course to the musical side of the equation. All three sang and played together throughout their tours. Though it's worth noting Bridgers often contributed the acoustic guitar throughout.
What is perhaps most important about boygenius and their EP was what it has meant to the industry. It's not a secret that music is still dominated by men both in front of the microphone and behind the scenes. By assembling a super group of stars that all three had established critical acclaim, Bridgers, Baker, and Dacus made a statement about the state of the music industry, both through their formation and through the numerous interviews they gave to the media.
Favorite Songs - "Bite the Hand", "Me & My Dog", "Souvenir", "Stay Down", "Salt in the Wound", and "Ketchum ID"
After boygenius had finished rocking the alt world, I thought that Bridgers would likely go back and work on another solo album in 2019. I even stated this opinion on The Alt Revue Podcast. In retrospect, how wrong was I? Bridgers would again rock the alt world by teaming with Conor Oberst to form Better Oblivion Community Center.
(Photo Credit - Nik Freitas)
Better Oblivion Community Center (2019) - You know when this album dropped, I was all over it, getting the special edition orange vinyl. My favorite track on the album is right at the beginning, "Didn't Know What I Was In For". Lyrically it's excellent, I especially love the first chorus. Bridgers and Oberst sing: "I didn't know what I was in for / When I signed up for that run / There's no way I'm curing cancer / But I'll sweat it out / I feel so proud now for all the good I've done". While the lyrics are great throughout, I also want to focus on Bridgers' and Oberst's harmonization which is absolutely flawless. The verses are initially sang by Bridgers. However, Oberst soon joins on for the first chorus, then the mostly harmonize throughout the rest of the track. It's downright beautiful. Speaking of Bridgers' and Oberst's ability to harmonize, they do this so well on "Sleepwalkin'".
"Dylan Thomas" has been the big hit from the album and has dominated alt radio, especially on Sirius. If you haven't heard it, the melody alone (especially the guitar work) is worth the price of admission. "Exception to the Rule" is among my favorites on the album because it's so melodically different to anything else on the record. It features a primarily electronic melody, it just stands out so much. I've listed some songs below that stand out as my favorites, but like most of Bridgers' other work, I'm just letting the needle start at the top of the album and I'm playing it cover to cover.
Favorite Songs - "Didn't Know What I Was In For", "Sleepwalkin'", "Dylan Thomas", "Exception to the Rule", "Chesapeake", "My City" and "Big Black Heart".
As you can see, Bridgers has done a lot in a short amount of time! I see no reason why she stops now, as she has continually kept moving, most recently releasing a Spotify Single cover of The Cure's "Friday I'm in Love". I hope this profile has convinced you to give her a shot if you haven't done so already, you won't be disappointed. Not only is Bridgers' talent as a songwriter prolific, but so is her output. Bridgers recently discussed on her Instagram account that she's working on an album. I'm excited for what the future holds for her.