Stranger In The Alps is a higher profile record (and one that has been out longer) than those I usually write about, but as it has consumed much (well, most) of my 2018 listening, this is a necessary exorcism. 2018 has been a long year and a year that has not included the consumption of all that much new music, but Phoebe Bridgers’ debut has still managed to find itself on regular rotation. The young singer-songwriter entrances with somber, expansive music and a voice that exudes an elegant intimacy.
For those of us whose musical tastes were at their most formative in the first five years of the twenty-first century, Strangers In The Alps expands on an emotive strand of indie rock (and top 40 pop-rock marketed as alternative) that was a constant inundation. It’s this emotional immediacy that has made acts like the Dave Matthews Band, her producer Ryan Adams, and John Mayer (an early proponent of Bridgers’) so successful, but rather than the focus-grouped sentiment of those acts Bridgers’ sound is more akin to the melancholic mini-narratives of Sun Kil Moon – made all the more apparent by her cover of “You Missed My Heart”). A track like “Funeral” captures the personal and depressive qualities of Kozelek at his best – as on 2014’s Benji – while the inclusion of Connor Oberst on “Would You Rather” expands upon that angst, both adolescent and otherwise, and serves to establish it as a successor to the sounds to which Bright Eyes was vanguard.
But all that aside, Strangers In The Alps is one of the best album of 2017 and one that is easy to get lost in, to let its sparse worlds wash over you.