Throughout Punisher, Phoebe Bridgers’ sombre sophomore album, the 25-year-old songwriter searches for connection while being well aware that the world is on fire around her.
On the cover of the album, the Los Angeles-based musician is photographed alone, stranded in a red and black desert as she stares into the stars above. “I want to believe,” she whispers on “Chinese Satellite.” “Instead I look at the sky and I feel nothing. You know I hate to be alone.”
Bridgers’ lyrics have always been purely confessional and personal, sometimes so specific and dark, it makes you uncomfortable as if you weren’t meant to hear. “I’m gonna kill you,” she sings to an unknown person on “Kyoto”, before adding, “If you don’t beat me to it.”
The album’s murky songs are supported by Bridgers’ wavering voice and guitar, and get an added folk-tinged lightness thanks to a backup of horns and violins. Bridgers’ overall songwriting is in peak form on Punisher; beautiful and conversational, but never overly depressing or aimless.
It’s the album’s closer, “I Know The End,” that allows Bridgers to fully unleash her emotions. As trumpets, strings, and a chanting choir swell, Bridgers unearths a guttural scream, letting loose into that red and black sky she’s been singing to. It’s both chilling and cathartic, but a fitting end to a deeply moving collection of songs as we leave the singer breathing ragged.