By Abigail Beck
On Sept. 22, Phoebe Bridgers’ album “Stranger in the Alps” turned 4 years old. This album is a must-listen – it’s timeless. Bridgers explores complex topics such as grief, coming of age and loss in a way that allows the listener to make the album theirs.
Every time I listen to a Bridgers song, I feel or notice something different and new. She is a storyteller and this album — listened to in chronological order — conveys a storyline that is left up to the listener’s imagination.
The album kicks off with “Smoke Signals” where the singer-songwriter discusses how intimate music can feel even when it’s made for a large audience. “I didn’t know you then / And I’ll never understand / Why it feels like I did,” Bridgers wrote, describing the connection she feels to an artist she listens to. Music is one of the most distinct aspects of being human. It brings people together, but at the same time, it has the unique power of making a person feel like an individual; it’s anticonformity and pro-unity all in one.
In a way, I feel like I know Bridgers just like she feels like she knows the singer she is writing about here. I began listening to her music during my final months of high school. I remember hearing “Motion Sickness” for the first time. I felt so understood. Although high school was not the best time in my life, it seemed impossible to leave. I, too, had “emotional motion sickness.” Bridgers’ music helped me come to terms with the notion of moving on, and I feel that it is a lesson that can be applied within anyone’s life. In “Motion Sickness”, Bridgers embodies the inner turmoil that can occur when saying goodbye to an era, but also the peace that takes place when welcoming a new one.
As the album progresses, Bridgers introduces the song “Funeral.” This song digs deep into the self-talk that too many of us know all too well – constantly reminding ourselves that someone out there has it worse. As someone who has struggled with mental health since I was 12, I know how isolating these emotions can be. Yet, I also understand that I am not alone when I admit that I am quick to diminish my emotions. I will put my feelings on the back burner, opting to deal with them at a more ideal time. Frankly, the “perfect” time to cope with emotions is the moment they occur. Every now and then, sit in your sadness for a while, but never long enough for it to be comforting. Just long enough to acknowledge that everything you are experiencing is valid.
Skipping ahead in the tracklist, “Killer” is undoubtedly one of the most important songs in the entire album. Truthfully, I can hardly offer an interpretation of this song that will give it justice. The lyrics that stuck with me the most within “Stranger in the Alps” is when Bridgers is describing her metaphorical death as she tries to cling to both her partner and also the version of herself she became around them. The song goes, “Know that I’ve burned every playlist / And I’ve given all my love.” These two lines mark a feeling of completion, like the final check marks on a strenuous to-do list. There is something to be said about the strength that arises when one comes to terms with the finality of an experience.
The thing I love most about “Stranger in the Alps” is that it can apply to anyone in any stage of life. It is a sad album, however, by being so intimate, it opens the door for discussion about how real and present this sadness can be. This piece of art creates a community out of strangers. The days in the alps aren’t so lonesome anymore.
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