Phoebe Bridgers was relatively unknown when she released her debut album in 2017. But her diaristic songwriting, effortless falsetto and atmospheric arrangements quickly earned her strong reviews and a devoted audience. Her profile has steadily risen.
Now, she finds herself at the centre of a #MeToo revelation in music: she is one of several women to accuse musician Ryan Adams of emotional abuse – which he denies. Their testimony, documented in the New York Times, alleges Adams offered professional support to young female musicians before starting sexual relationships with them, before later turning abusive and rescinding his help. One claims she was 14 when Adams started messaging her online and that their correspondence “put me off” music forever. “How many women stopped working in music because of… coercive men?” Pitchfork asked. “And how much great music did we lose in turn?”
Bridgers is a tremendously accomplished musician. Stranger in the Alps opens with three deft, subtle tracks: the melancholy “Smoke Signals”, with references to Bowie, the Smiths and Motörhead, ends with the wavering line, “I am a concrete wall”. “Motion Sickness”, the album’s most dynamic track, details her relationship with Adams. Packed with devastating, funny lyrics (“Why do you sing in an English accent?/I guess it’s too late to change it now”; “You were in a band when I was born”), the track’s undulating melodies are like a pleasurable but nauseating rollercoaster. “Funeral” delicately captures the dull monotony of depression. She has also released two collaborative records, the gem of which is boygenius’s “Me and My Dog”, written and mostly performed by Bridgers. If you’re not familiar with her work, get to know it now. Be glad that it made it out.
This article appears in the 20 Feb 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The last days of Islamic State