In Phoebe Bridgers’ second studio album, Punisher, she walks with us, exploring shadows of memory and visiting life in retrospect. The album, released in 2020, is an honest take on sorrow and notions of apathy that accompany solitude. Composed of eleven tracks, it assembles memorable melodies and poetic lyrics that dance with intimate emotions and personal experience. Beginning with DVD Menu, a dark tone unravels. The eerie instrumental sets a chilly and nostalgic autumnal mood while we begin a stroll through time.
Moon Song, the seventh track on the album, tributes feelings of despair and emptiness past initial heartbreak. In a dying relationship, Phoebe reminds us of what it means to feel lesser than. The haunted melody is carried along as she sings of giving everything she has to someone who ultimately rejects her. Phoebe shares how such an illusionary motive to capture the moon, so futile and far, transpires to selfless love. In desperation, Phoebe relishes in the idea of reciprocation but excuses the lack of. The sound of Moon Song is liberating, validating and personal. Listening to a song so familiar in truth leaves room for a connection to the songwriter and an impression of understanding. The realization of likeness is a warm embrace yet leaves you hollow inside, somehow, all at once.
As the record continues, gloomy melodies linger. The eighth track, Savior Complex, reflects the inner desire to save a partner within a relationship. Phoebe articulates that she accepts her romance as one that is flawed, but possesses the potential to remedy it. With riveting lyrics and melancholy, Phoebe tours a circumstance common to most. Navigating romance is a complex quest that often hinders the ability to love in full. As we find ourselves within them, relationships become complicated. Savior Complex is a tender conversation with a friend and a realization that we are not alone in struggle.
Finally, the closing track of the album, I Know the End, acts as an ode to the apocalyptic tensions during the pandemic. As we all face a new reality, Phoebe distinguishes apathy and how this unique perception manifests. Remarkably, Phoebe wrote the lyrics prior to the pandemic, adding an air of mystery to her lyrical wisdom. It seems as though Phoebe indeed knew the end. Her musical catharsis replicates the pent up emotions through a traumatic and peculiar time and the stoicism as a means to cope. The ebb and flow of life as we know it is mirrored through a passionate voice. As if in solidarity, Phoebe sings with us.
The album leads us to resonate with feelings of isolation, however, with validating words, the paradox leads to connection. Through sound, Punisher is a friend to walk with when it's needed most.
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