There aren’t enough words to describe how much respect and admiration I have for Phoebe Bridgers, and yet, here I am writing a post about her anyway. Re: insomnia–her latest album, Punisher, was supposed to be out on June 19th, but she ended up releasing it on the 18th, remarking on YouTube, “I’m not pushing the record until things go back to ‘normal’ because I don’t think they should. Here it is a little early. Abolish the police. Hope you like it.” It’s been hard to sleep ever since. This album is just a million layers of gorgeous gut punch apocalyptic clinically depressed road trip MDMA trip reflection on aliens and/or the lack thereof.
If you’re afraid of something all the time, you’re going to look for proof that it happened, or that it’s going to happen…But if you’re someone who believes that good people are doing amazing things no matter how small, and that there’s beauty or whatever in the midst of all the darkness, you’re going to see that proof, too.
I may need to write a poem called “Beauty or Whatever.” I may have already written it. Delightful component of being a writer: you just get to steal. I mean, not copywrighted stuff, unless you can get away with it, in which case, go you, but stuff people say. This is why I try not to leave the house without a notebook. There’s all this untamed, free-range beauty in the world in the most unexpected places, and it’s a matter of catching it and knowing where to look. Or just always looking, no matter where you are. Is beauty an emergent property of words, or something else, because I can taste it, the shape of the vowels. Language, also known as the divine and devastating Lego set that makes everything better, more dangerous. On “Garden Song,” she sings, Everything’s growing in our garden / you don’t have to know that it’s haunted. Soundtrack to my brain.
I hope the parties are good when this [pandemic] is over.
I don’t even go to parties, but I hope so, too.
A couple years back, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus got together and formed the supergroup boygenius, recorded a whole album, toured together. I haven’t listened to Lucy Dacus’ work as much, but I think I know the lyrics to both Julien Baker albums by heart, and there’s this epic religion-faith-nihilism ping pong going on among Turn Out the Lights and boygenius and now, Punisher:
Julien: I think there’s a G-d and He hears either way
Phoebe: I have no faith.
Julien: I send postcards from the road / and now and then He answers
Phoebe: I mean, I definitely have weird beliefs that come from nothing.
Julien: I rejoice
Phoebe: I think breathing is important.
I swear I’m not angry, that’s just my face. (“Punisher”)
“Sonically, [Savior Complex] is one of the only songs I’ve ever written in a dream.”
When the speed kicks in / I go to the store for nothing / and walk right by / the house where you lived with Snow White
Elliott Smith continues to haunt absolutely everything.
born under Scorpio skies
Besides, she’s not a Scorpio. She’s a Leo, like me.
Julien: somebody’s listening at night / with the ghosts of my friends when I pray
Phoebe: I like to believe that ghosts and aliens exist, but I kind of doubt it.
Julien: I rejoice
Phoebe: I think science is like the closest thing to that you’ll get.
Julien: great men of science and literature / don’t impress me
Phoebe: I love science.
I’ve been reading this end-of-the-world fiction lately, not on purpose, just because I keep picking up anthologies and the world’s always ending even when the books aren’t. You have to be careful with good fiction. It gets inside your head, carves out little holes, makes you more permeable to the unknown, especially what you read before bed. There are ants crawling everywhere, too, all over my books and the cords to my chargers and the empty glasses of water I’m always forgetting to put in the dishwater. Phoebe’s music is this diaphanous, porous thing that I’m listening to constantly so it soaks up time and space and memory. I listen to all the words because her words are the best words. If you don’t listen to the words, the album’s all soft and beautiful and vacant, but then you do listen and you’re zooming in deeper, approaching the canyons and valleys. It’s a fractal problem, or so I’m told. The more carefully you measure, the bigger the numbers get. Start walking the English coast and you’ll never finish.
If you’re a work of art
I’m standing too close
I can see the brush strokes
She wrote a breakup song with her ex. The person with whom she broke up. Her drumming. She wrote a breakup song with him. With. Him.
I’ll climb through the window again
But right now, it feels good not to stand
Then I’ll leave it wide open
Let the dystopian morning light pour in
Over the coast, everyone’s convinced
It’s a government drone or an alien spaceship
Either way, we’re not alone
Conspiracy theories rooted in loneliness? I buy it.
Julien: if you swear that it’s true then I have to believe
Phoebe: I want to believe –
Julien: what I hear evangelicals say on TV
Phoebe: You were screamin’ at the Evangelicals.
Julien: and if there’s enough left after everyone else –
Phoebe: They were screamin’ right back from what I remember.
the end is here the end is here the end is here the end is…ahh!
Julien: my heart is gonna eat itself
Phoebe: baby, you’re a vampire
Julien: I don’t need anybody else
Phoebe: you’re a bad liar
Julien: am I a masochist
Phoebe: baby, it’s Halloween. we can be anything.
When the speed kicks in / I go to the store for nothing / and walk right by / the house where you lived with Snow White is from the song “Punisher” (Phoebe, Punisher)
born under Scorpio skies is from the song “Kyoto” (Phoebe, Punisher)
If you’re a work of art / I’m standing too close / I can see the brush strokes is from the song “ICU” (Phoebe, Punisher)
So is I’ll climb through the window again / But right now, it feels good not to stand / Then I’ll leave it wide open / Let the dystopian morning light pour in
Over the coast, everyone’s convinced / It’s a government drone or an alien spaceship / Either way, we’re not alone is from the song “I Know The End” (Phoebe, Punisher)
So is the end is here the end is here the end is here the end is…ahh!
You were screamin’ at the Evangelicals / They were screamin’ right back from what I remember is from the song “Chinese Satellite” (Phoebe, Punisher)
baby you’re a vampire…you’re a bad liar…baby, it’s Halloween / we can be anything is from the song “Halloween” (Phoebe, Punisher)
All other Phoebe quotes are from this Apple Music interview about Punisher.
I think there’s a G-d and He hears either way / I rejoice is from the song “Rejoice” (Julien, Sprained Ankle)
So is somebody’s listening at night / The ghosts of my friends when I pray
I send postcards from the road / and now and then He answers is from the song “Distant Solar Systems” (Julien, single)
So is great men of science and literature / don’t impress me
if you swear that it’s true then I have to believe / what I hear evangelicals say on TV / and if there’s enough left after everyone else is from the song “Happy To Be Here” (Julien, Turn Out The Lights)
My heart is gonna eat itself / I don’t need anybody else…am I a masochist is from the song “Televangelist” (Julien, Turn Out The Lights)