Phoebe Bridgers drowns over and over on her debut album, “Stranger In The Alps.” She drowns in her dreams; then she wakes up and drowns in love and alcohol and smoke and death and her past. And she drowned me, too. When I first heard the album I was stuck in an unrequited love, and the combination purged everything else from my system as if no other melodies or feelings had ever existed — an endless horizon of blue. And no matter how frantically I tried to swim away, the album smacked like a white-capped whip, and thrust me back under.
Bridgers is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. That might conjure a certain image and sound, especially as Miley Cyrus finds a muse in Malibu and Julia Michaels slips her fingerprints on every other pop song. California stereotypes are youthful exuberance, sun-kissed guitars, and synths swelling as immaculately azure as waves. But Bridgers feels like a product of the other coast; her voice is windswept and muted; her lyricism is cold and blobby and blurry, until it crashes in torrents of brutal heartbreak.
The first three songs off Stranger In The Alps are maybe the most sublime, devastating thirteen consecutive minutes of music you’ll hear this year. Each song is a grand opus and one third of a crushing narrative arc; an arc that I lived this summer.