Stranger in the Alps
Don’t let the somber tone of her music fool you: the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers has a sunny disposition.
“I’d hate for someone to think I’m sipping an espresso somewhere judging people or feeling sorry for myself. OK, I definitely do that once in a while, but I don’t consider myself an intense person.”
Bridgers grew up in the rose-colored city of Pasadena, attending the prestigious Los Angeles County High School for the Arts to study music. From an early age, she found encouragement from a close-knit artistic community of friends and family to follow her dreams, and at school she forged relationships that would teach her as much about her craft as her classes.
“I think most of my musical education had to do with being around a ton of teenagers who listened to music all the time,” she says. “At school I had classical training for my voice, but I think being surrounded by people who were really enthusiastic about art and going to concerts all the time was the real education.”
“I met Carla Azar of Autolux – and she showed me Elliott Smith for the first time, which was my first personal connection to music that one of my parents hadn’t showed me,” she says. “It seemed so different from anything I’d listened to before. It is so personal, so intense.” Bridgers’ work would be heavily influenced by Smith’s sparse lyrics and subdued emotional style, in addition to that of her other favored singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen.
“Los Angeles is interwoven into my music inherently,” she says. “I don’t necessarily try to reference it, but because I’m pulling from experience it just appears. A lot of shit goes down wherever you may grow up.” After graduating from high school, Bridgers spent a year gigging around the city, playing as often as she could, making mistakes and learning while on her feet. “I’ve always been very appreciative of the LA thing,” she says.
But of course the truth is that the unique ingredient at play, the calling card that has drawn all this interest and intrigue, is simply Bridgers’ music itself. Her powerful, lilting voice and her haunting, introspective songs light the torch that shows the way, and are what have inspired artists like Julien Baker to bring her on tour in 2016, as well as John Doe and Conor Oberst to sing with her on her debut album. There is a delicate balance to her work, a dance between veiled narratives and earnest emotions, between whispers and shouts. And according to Bridgers, everything you hear has arrived by feeling; her music is what comes when she is at her most honest, without specific intention, and she aims to be in her songs the person she is in the world.
Stranger in the Alps opens with the one-two punch of “Smoke Signals” and “Motion Sickness,” a pair of songs that highlight Bridgers’ abilities. The former, a gorgeous, ethereal tune guided by sparse electric guitar and sweeping strings, toes the line between weary and wistful, using specific anecdotes from its singer to tell its tale. The style highlights the strengths of Bridgers’ unique lyric writing perspective: there are overt references to lost idols, canonical pop songs and actual incidents, but her stories unfold through precise, evocative imagery sung in her subtle, confessional style. The latter is perhaps the most upbeat moment on the album and was written on her baritone guitar and discusses a problematic relationship from her past. “I feel like I’m getting more focused when I write,” she says. “My songs are super personal.”
“Scott Street” is a song inspired by East Los Angeles where Bridgers now lives. “Killer” is a song originally appearing on her 2015 single but is re-recorded here by the album’s producer, Tony Berg, with John Doe singing alongside Bridgers. That song in particular inspired her to be more honest in her approach. “I wanted to be more genuine with my lyrics, and to me that meant being self-deprecating or a little more self-aware, and not using words that just sounded pretty,” she says. “I had an epiphany that I can be honest with myself and with other people when I’m writing.”
Elsewhere, Conor Oberst joins her for the duet “Would You Rather,” a singer chosen for his unmistakable voice. A Mark Kozelek cover, “You Missed My Heart,” ends the album. As with any singer’s debut, the songs here comprise a wide swath of Bridgers’ life, dating from the oldest, “Georgia,” which she calls the most different-sounding on the LP, to the opening pair, which were written after the recording process had already begun. Berg and co-producer Ethan Gruska worked with Bridgers to record in on-and-off stretches in between tours over 2016 at Berg’s studio in Brentwood. She went into the studio with the majority of the material written, however “Smoke Signals” and “Motion Sickness” were written in a cabin in Idaho, while Bridgers was waiting for a tour to begin. The pair were the last songs written for the LP.
“I wasn’t trying to be too lo-fi, too hi-fi, too self-serious, too disingenuous…I feel pretty confident that I’m finding my voice,” she says. “I wanted the album to completely represent who I am and these songs are representative of what I set out to do.”
Video & Press
Livestreams This Week!
Here we go folks, your weekly High Road artist livestreams list ~ please send us anything we missed! May 26 at 5pm PST / 8 pm EST – Georgia On My Mind show benefiting the Georgia Music Foundation, hosted by Amy Ray and Brent Cobb, featuring the Indigo Girls and many more. May 26 at 4:20pm PST […]
Phoebe Bridgers’s Frank, Anxious Music
Her new album, “Punisher,” was crafted with foresight and intention, but the absurdity of the world in which it’s being released requires a certain amount of disengagement. By Amanda Petrusich [The New Yorker] In late February, the singer and songwriter Phoebe Bridgers appeared at Carnegie Hall as part of a benefit for Tibet House U.S., a nonprofit […]
Phoebe Bridgers Announces New Album Punisher, Shares New Song ‘Kyoto’: Listen
The singer-songwriter’s sophomore LP is out in June [Pitchfork] By Matthew Strauss Phoebe Bridgers has announced her sophomore solo album: Punisher is out June 19 via Dead Oceans. The follow-up to Stranger in the Alps includes “Garden Song,” as well as a new track called “Kyoto.” Check out Bridgers’ new “Kyoto” video below. Find physical editions of Punisher at Rough Trade. (Pitchfork earns a commission […]
Phoebe Bridgers is #1 on Uproxx Best Indie Albums of the 2010s
DEAD OCEANS 1. Phoebe Bridgers — Stranger In The Alps In the last few years, Phoebe Bridgers has become a central figure in the indie world, thanks to both her landmark solo debut album and her contributions to the Boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center projects. There might not be a better songwriter to emerge this decade, a master of […]
Watch Phoebe Bridgers as Better Oblivion Community Center on NPR Tiny Desk
[NPR] When this fabulous new duo arrived for their Tiny Desk, it felt like old friends coming home. Both Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers are Tiny Desk alum. Conor’s first Tiny Desk Concert came during his Upside Down Mountain Tour in 2014. Phoebe has come by twice in the past few years, first as a solo artist in 2017 and then as part […]
Review: Better Oblivion Community Center Make Soft Rock For Hard Times
[Rolling Stone] Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst debut their new duo with a raw, redemptive album By Will Hermes What is it about dashed expectations that breed singer-songwriters? As the Sixties dream cratered, a golden era peaked in Laurel Canyon — think Joni, Jackson, Sweet Baby James — with a tendency towards wistful solipsism. Now, […]
Phoebe Bridgers Shares Hushed Cover of The Cure’s ‘Friday I’m in Love’
[Consequence of Sound] A beautiful version from the singer-songwriter’s Spotify Singles session BY Ben Kayeon Beyond her collaborative boygenius EP with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus (one of the year’s best efforts), Phoebe Bridgers has spent 2018 piling up the covers. There was that surprising take on Japandroids “The House That Heaven Built”, her Simone […]
Watch the Delightful Harmony of boygenius on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts
[NPR] By Bob Boilen The group is new, but all of the members of boygenius — Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers — are Tiny Desk Concert alumae. In fact, Julien has been behind my desk twice before. So when the usual nerve-racking session was over and I shouted out, “So, is it any […]
The Sweeter, Stranger Side of Phoebe Bridgers: Fader Interview
[Fader] The sweeter, stranger side of an artist you might otherwise think was only sad. By Mish Barber-Way In 2017, a relatively unknown artist named Phoebe Bridgers released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps. She sings dark folk-rock lullabies about funerals and wanting to die, yet still manages to work in backhanded digs at […]