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Phoebe Bridgers on Her New Song That's Almost Too Personal
Towards the end of her morose piano ballad “Killer,” Phoebe Bridgers imagines her death. Her health failing and her mind barely there, she implores her lover to “Kiss my rotten head and pull the plug,” but also to remember that she’s “burned every playlist/ And given all my love.”
Even in the imagined last moments of her life, Bridgers makes a point to remind her partner at her bedside of the little things, as trivial as burning a playlist, as if they were of utmost importance. On Bridgers’ debut album, Stranger in the Alps, they are: each inconsequential moment that the L.A.-based singer-songwriter croons about on her new album, out today via Dead Oceans, stands for something much bigger.
A reference to The Smiths' “How Soon is Now” in the album opener “Smoke Signals,” for instance, underscores the relationship between the song’s subject and her father, highlighting a childhood marked by living in the back of a van. In the same song, the deaths of Lemmy and David Bowie are both mental markers for different memories -- a trip to the subject’s hometown, a conversation about the current state of Los Angeles, and a stay at an anonymous Holiday Inn.
“I think music serves that purpose for me the most, being a soundtrack for moments in time in my life,” 23-year-old Bridgers explains. “Especially with records that were my favorite that I couldn’t stop listening to -- you listen to it so hard that like a month later, you can’t listen to it and you have to wait a long time to revisit it. Revisiting it again, it totally makes me think about this really specific time.”
Outside of musical references, Bridgers’ debut includes a look into some of her most intimate and heartbreaking moments, such as performing at a friend’s memorial service on “Funeral” and later wallowing in self-pity after returning home to wake up in her childhood bed.
“Every time I sing that song, I get a little bit uncomfortable because it’s so personal,” she says. “If I see someone’s face in the audience, I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I wonder what I’m doing to their brain right now!’”