Label: Dead Oceans
Release Date: 18th June 2020
“Punisher is a hypnotic and atmospheric second album, full of witty lyrical quips."
In a time where celebrities are constantly falling short in their attempts to use their platform to help others, Bridgers represents how it can be accomplished in the most genuine, sincere way. Releasing her much anticipated solo second album, Punisher, a day early, she stated that she had not been promoting the album due to a conscious decision not to detract from the vital conversations arising around the Black Lives Matter movement. Her post contained a link that prompts fans to donate to causes such as Movement for Black Lives and Downtown Women’s Centre. I felt that this way of handling her album release, to amplify the action that is occurring at the moment rather than distracting from it, was worth pointing to.
Punisher provides a hypnotic and atmospheric second album, full of witty lyrical quips. The solid foundation that was established in her debut album, Stranger in the Alps, is strengthened and built upon. Songs, such as 'Garden Song', feature perceptive lyrics that capture the zeitgeist of living in the modern age: “And when I grow up, I’m gonna look up / From my phone and see my life / And it’s gonna be just like my recurring dream”. Bridgers plays with words in the same way that a poet would: her lyrics are witty and refreshing, similar to that of Courtney Barnett. It is easy to recognise how the album is heavily influenced by literary loves of hers, such as the infamous Californian writer Joan Didion.
There are tracks which offer a more upbeat feel to them as respite from the melancholic tone that dominates the album's sound, most notably 'Kyoto'. The beat that pushes the song forward transports you to Kyoto, the Japanese city that Bridgers describes she’s "got a day off in". The pulse of the drums makes you feel as though you are experiencing the intoxicating, vibrant sights of Kyoto and the introduction of trumpets adds a joyous feeling. This juxtaposition of uplifting melody with a sense of discontentment in the lyrics, shown in lines such as “I wanted to see the world / Then I flew over the ocean / And I changed my mind”, is precisely what I love about Bridgers’ music. She always manages to subvert and play around with feelings and how music can convey them.
The subject matters featured in Punisher encompass that of the universal (unrequited love,
searching for meaning, anger), but with a refreshing twist. Fans of her debut album will be pleased to hear that she has retained the mixture of nostalgia and emotion that had us blaring her music through our headphones on repeat whilst crying into a glass of wine or looking out wistfully into the evening sky. Punisher reflects the cinematic, nostalgic feeling of being young, destructive and self-reflective.
Words by Carina Bryan.
19th June 2020.