Quantcast

Video of the Day

Masthead

Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
(e-mail)

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.
Thursday
Nov022017

« In Which Something Happened When You Were A Kid »

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 7.01.18 PM

Nothing She Can't Do

by JANICE LEVENS

Stranger in the Alps
Phoebe Bridgers
producers Tony Berg and Ethan Gruska
September 22nd on Dead Oceans

"Jesus Christ, I'm so blue all the time, and that's just how I feel," Phoebe Bridgers admits on "Funeral." Disturbingly, this is one of the most uplifting tracks on her debut album Stranger in the Alps, a preciously perfect debut in the vein of collaborator Conor Oberst and a litany of folk predecessors who were nowhere near as good when they were 23.

But age is not anything but a number, and Phoebe herself is more than an amalgamation of moody ballads. Most prominent in Stranger in the Alps is Phoebe's hometown of Los Angeles, which lurks like the effete ghost on her album cover over the proceedings.

One reason that Phoebe's dark act isn't always convincing is that she is so articulate about her hard times. While she explains "I won't be home with you tonight" to Leonard Cohen on "Chelsea", you can tell that she is having fun in her melancholy. "No it's not important, they're just pretty words, my dear," she explains, "there is no distraction that can make me disappear." Thank God, for Stranger in the Alps is the most exciting debut this year.

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 7.01.20 PM

Bridgers' low, gravelly voice works perfectly on this material, although it lacks the resonance we encounter when she duets with Conor Oberst on the restrained, "Would You Rather". Hearing another voice echo Phoebe's comes as an alarming surprise, and is probably mistake. Breaking this sonorous monologue is distracting to the real purpose of Stranger in the Alps, which is to present a devastatingly accurate portrait of a woman in a particular time and place without any self-censorship; Bridgers' honesty is like a dinosaur bone delicately preserved in amber. Oberst is the dinosaur.

On "Scott Street", Bridgers hones in her self-doubt on an exterior force. Her subdued anger is all the more sour for its contained aspect, as she sings, "There's helicopters over my head every night when I go to bed. Spending money and I earned it. When I'm lonely, that's when I'll burn it." Here the underlying sound recedes from her singular voice, whereas on "Georgia", one of her oldest songs, the piano is more prominent, as if she is now slightly embarrassed by the directness of lyrics like "if I had breathed you, will it kill me?"

In the album's showpiece, "Smoke Signals", Bridgers ascends to another level of lyrical sophistication.

I buried a hatchet, It's coming up lavender
The future's unwritten, the past is a corridor
I'm at the exit looking back through the hall

You are anonymous, I am a concrete wall

By the end of Stranger in the Alps, Phoebe seems to have encapsulated how she wants her music to appear in the folk catalogue: on the serious, hard side of the ledger. "You gave me $1500 to see your hypnotherapist," she says without the slightest hint of irony. Let us hope she stays that way.

Janice Levens is the music editor of This Recording.

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 7.01.13 PM

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.