Listen Up!: “Punisher” by Phoebe Bridgers

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Amanda Wampler '24, Staff Writer

This past June, Phoebe Bridgers released her new album, Punisher, which was her return to her solo music career after a few years of touring, writing, and recording collaborative pieces with artists Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Conor Oberst. 

Before listening to Punisher, it is important to note that it is not an “easy-listening” album. From the haunting, apocalyptic feel of “I Know The End,” to the deceptive tempo of “Kyoto,” and the bleak feeling in “Chinese Satellite,” this album is best listened to when you can devote sufficient time to understanding her songs.. Bridgers can pull listeners into her mind and allow them to feel exactly what she feels. Though this is the goal of most songwriters, Bridgers is overwhelmingly successful at it. 

Bridgers is a genius at crafting strong ballads with heartbreaking emotions, so to see her come out of that box was surprising and showed her wide talent. In “Kyoto,” she sings about her broken relationship with her father, notably saying, “I don’t forgive you / But please don’t hold me to it.” The lyrics are a stark juxtaposition from the tempo, which is upbeat with trumpets in the background. At first listen, it seems as though it is a happy song, but after learning the words that idea is shattered.  

A main idea that Bridgers expands on in her album is loving someone who hates themselves. Her recounting of past relationships is shown in “Halloween,” “Moon Song,” and “Graceland Too.” In those songs, she repeatedly says that she will become whoever her lover needed her to be; she would do anything to stay with her lover, even if that meant losing herself. Her lyrics are extremely poignant that even someone who has not experienced that toxic kind of love can feel where she is coming from.  

Another idea that Bridgers focuses on, in her song “Chinese Satellite,” is her lack of faith in religion, the supernatural, or anything at all. This bleak vision of her world rips listeners open. This also allows listeners to better understand Bridgers, and possibly her emotions and relationships displayed in her music.  

As a long-time fan of Bridgers and a lover of sad music, I was hopeful for the release of Punisher. After a few months of careful listening, I can confidently say that every time I listen to this album, I am a mess afterwards. Her words resonate deeply even with people who may not fully understand what she feels. She has a graceful way of adding comedy to these sad songs, like her line, “Somewhere in Germany but I can’t place it / Man, I hate this part of Texas,” which is an inside joke between her and her bandmates. 

This expressive, powerful album is one of my favorites now. For anyone finding themselves in need of a sad album, or just want to delve into the mind of Phoebe Bridgers, I would highly recommend giving Punisher a listen.