Phoebe Bridgers is on top of the world right now. Or at least she ought to be. Her 2017 debut Stranger in the Alps rocketed her to fame and earned universal critical acclaim. And her subsequent high-profile collaborations in Better Oblivion Community Center (with Conor Oberst) and boygenius (with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker) haven’t done too badly either. But you’d never know it from the lyrics of her sophomore album Punisher (which could more accurately be titled Self-Punisher) — the spellbinding singer-songwriter still comes off like a lost, lovelorn loner on many of these 11 songs. But don’t feel too sorry for her. As she and her band (augmented by al the collaborators above and more) weave her darkly devastating tales of dread, detachment, desperation, drugs and death over a distinctive, stylishly messy fusion of organic folk-rock instrumentation and electronic textures and layers, it quickly becomes more than clear that Bridgers is making the best of it — artistically, at least. And in the process, she’s nimbly sidestepping the sophomore slump while making it clear she’s no flash in the pan. She can stop punishing herself anytime now.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore solo album Punisher is the follow-up to Stranger in the Alps. Bridgers wrote and recorded Punisher between summer 2018 and autumn 2019. She worked on the new album with co-producers Tony Berg and Ethan Gruska. Her band on the record includes drummer Marshall Vore, guitarist Harrison Whitford, bassist Emily Restas, and pianist Nick White. In addition, Punisher has contributions from familiar faces like Conor Oberst, Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, Christian Lee Hutson, Nick Zinner, Blake Mills, and Bright Eyes’ Nathaniel Walcott, who plays horns on Kyoto and I Know the End. Since releasing Stranger in the Alps in September 2017, Bridgers has shared the boygenius EP with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, as well as Better Oblivion Community Center with Conor Oberst.”