I was pretty sure I was already Phoebe Bridgers fan, but I still needed a little convincing. Unlike her bandmates in Boygenius, I hadn’t entirely fallen for her solo work yet, as much as I loved the title of Bridgers’ debut Stranger In The Alps. Still, I liked the songs she wrote on Boygenius’s EP while it seemed fair to give Bridgers some leeway seeing as she’s still a pretty new presence in the indie rock world, if one who’s brimming with potential. Thankfully, Punisher gave me that little push over the edge into Phoebe Bridgers fandom, as it’s a great vehicle for her melancholy little songs while also occasionally hinting at more grandiose gestures.
The most obvious of these diversions from Bridgers typically introverted style is “Kyoto”, the kind of triumphant crossover indie single that you don’t hear too often these days. There is a part of me that wishes more of the songs on Punisher had the kind of horn-laden pomp that this song does, but a few other songs (namely “ICU” and “I Know The End”) manage to scratch that itch. Also, even for all of the sad ballads here, the atmospheres of the production makes the album feel like a step towards a more palatable sound for Bridgers, even if it stays true to her penchant for small, personal tales of ill-advised romance.
In most years, I would say that this is a bizarre album to come out in the summertime, but Summer 2020 has been one where the rules of what constitutes a “summer jam” have been a bit muddied. With its folky introspection and lyrics reflecting on more naive times, Punisher feels like a great Winter album to whisk listeners through those colder months. However, in a Summer as housebound and gloomy as this year’s, Punisher doesn’t feel all that out of place, though looking at the weather outside through your window often beckons for a sunnier kind of introspection. Thankfully, Punisher will still be waiting for anyone in a few months when the weather gets colder, just like those clearance sale sweaters you bought out of corona-induced boredom.