Music News & Reviews

Phoebe Bridgers gets into the nitty gritty of life in new album, July 19 Harlow’s show

Playing Harlow’s on July 19, L.A. indie artist Phoebe Bridgers says her new album is “super autobiographical.”
Playing Harlow’s on July 19, L.A. indie artist Phoebe Bridgers says her new album is “super autobiographical.”

Last year, L.A. indie artist Phoebe Bridgers wrote the cool-as-ice, mid-tempo rocker “Motion Sickness” which could be this generation’s breakup anthem. But rather than just swearing off her ex, she spits out all of her contradictive feelings over emotive hooks. (“I hate you for what you did and I miss you like a little kid.”)

“You never feel one thing about someone,” Bridgers says. “I remember specifically with ‘Motion Sickness’ being very angry when writing that song and then being like, ‘I have to tap in to some other stuff to make this not just a one lane thing.’”

Her critically-acclaimed record, Stranger in the Alps, isn’t one big breakup album. But it does get into the nitty gritty of relationships, with a particular focus on the impact each of these relationship on Bridgers herself. It’s fascinating perspective as its primary lens is on the impact in our various levels of intimacy.

“I’m very analytical,” Bridgers said. “All day long I think about the way things affect me because I am the center of my own universe. So yeah goes very easily into songwriting.”

Opening track “Smoke Signals” uses the metaphor of its title to talk about communication and the quality of a relationship that has an immediate connection. She approaches it as though it were just one way to interact with people, not as any sort of preferred method.

“I appreciate relationships where the opposite parts of your personality is what is so cool about relationship, getting to know someone that’s completely different than you and getting enveloped in a completely different world. Then on the flip side, meeting someone where you feel like you’ve had a million conversations with them before,” she said.

The record was released last fall and has garnered praise from numerous critics and fans alike. It took a few months for it to really catch on. She says that by the end of the year, she was really starting to notice her career gaining some traction.

“It amazes me every time someone likes my record because it was very personal for me,” Bridgers says. “It took me forever to record.”

Bridgers has been writing music since she was 11 years old. Most of that time she’s been a singer-songwriter. For a short period, she played bass in punk band Sloppy Jane. You can see her and the band performing Pixie’s “Gigantic” in a 2014 Apple iPhone commercial, an opportunity that came about when they were playing a gig. Someone approached them and told them they should audition for the commercial. They did and got it.

That band is still in existence, but without Bridgers. She decided to leave the band when it was time to tour her solo music. She remains friends with them.

“I always wanted to be a songwriter. When I was a kid I was always fantasizing about that specifically,” Bridgers says.

She toured solo, just her voice and an acoustic guitar. Her music was essentially folk in structure and in songwriting style. Singer-songwriter Ryan Adams took a liking to her music and released her song “Killer” on his label in 2015. The song’s sad, dreary lyrics were tempered by some offbeat humor and unexpected references like the Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” a tactic she’s perfected on Stranger in the Alps.

“That song, is what my brain looks like. It is kind of random, thinking about a bunch of stuff at once. Why did I think about that right after that? It’s stream of consciousness. It sounds unnatural if you’re doing too much editing,” Bridgers says.

She spent considerable time and worked with two different producers for her debut album. “Killer” made it on the record, but it evolved some. The songs on the record tends to be more flushed out arrangements with drums, fuzz guitars and harmonies. Yet, you can still hear the sad folk elements in her music even in the more assembled version of these songs with full arrangements and everything.

“I consider folk just whatever serves the song, just simple chords and lyrics as the basis. We definitely didn’t build off of tracks or anything," Bridgers said. "I tried to bring in interesting elements. I wanted to bring in as much cool stuff to my simple songs as much as possible.

“I always had a vision for it, but I played mostly solo shows and stuff at the time. They were folkier by default.”

She’s nearing the end of her touring cycle for the record. She’s already thinking about what her next record will be like. She’s had some time to assemble songs but wants some designated time to really work on it. As for the first one she had a long time to put it together. Some of the songs go back 7 years, others were written in the studio as they were being recorded.

“It’s kind of like classic first record where it’s kind of like my whole life of playing music in one album. It’s all super autobiographical,” Bridgers says. “I like taking those two things like taking a larger idea and these tiny little moments and try to make a picture basically.”

If you go

Where: Harlow’s, 2708 J St., Sacramento

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, July 19

Cost: $15-$18

Info: (916) 441-4693,