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Phoebe Bridgers Has No Chill

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Phoebe Bridgers Has No Chill

Shannon Durazo

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It’s another day, and indie/folk songstress Phoebe Bridgers has created another side project, this time a collab with indie rock titan and Bright Eyes front man Conor Oberst under the moniker Better Oblivion Community Center. Oberst and Bridgers have performed together in the past on the track “Would You Rather” off Bridger’s critically acclaimed debut Stranger in the Alps, but the BOCC project still comes as a surprise. This is not only the second side project Bridgers has concocted in the past year, but also the third record she’s released in two years. It appears Phoebe Bridgers has no chill these days, and I’m all for it.

Bridgers first entered the music scene with her Killer EP in 2015, in which the title track and unapologetically morbid single “Killer” put her into mainstream attention. Critics and fans alike enjoyed her unwavering takes on intimacy and minimalistic guitar-driven melodies. Her debut 2017 official debut Stranger in the Alps drew critical acclaim, and was followed up by the also praised 2018 Boy Genius release with fellow “super group” members Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker. Whether you love Bridgers or hate her, you at least have to admire her work ethic. Personally, I am on the in-between. Her intimate and self-deprecating sorrow on tracks like “Smoke Signals”, “Motion Sickness”, and most recent single “Dylan Thomas” with BOCC have me hooked, but there are other times on tracks like “Georgia” and “You Missed my Heart” where she enters a bit of Elliot-Smith-obvious-rhyme overkill.  One thing is for certain though that Phoebe Bridgers is an undeniably witty and enigmatic figure ,and if her songs don’t convey that enough then her hilarious twitter feed will.

But let’s get into the Better Oblivion Community Center release. Bridgers has a knack for teaming up with the artists she’s most often compared to, from Julien Baker to Conor Oberst, and it always seems work in her favor. But, whereas the Boygenius EP was powerful and brutally escapist, BOCC’s strongest moments are is in its laid-back, wandering nature. “All this freedom freaks me out” Oberst croons on the track “My City”, which is both a moment of self-reflection and wry relief. Where both Oberst and Bridgers can be pigeon-holed as highly confessional songwriters, it seems they are using this project to act like more of the dry, self-deprecating versions of themselves. Don’t worry though, there is still a heavy dose of their signature dreary. On the album opener “Didn’t Know What I Was in for” Bridgers mourns her perceived uselessness, singing “I’ve really never done anything for anyone”. On “Chesapeake”, arguably the album’s most stunning track, Bridgers discusses feeling tall while sitting on someone’s shoulders at a concert, both a formative memory and metaphor for attempting to find oneself amidst all the surrounding noise.

Whether she is talking about “faking it till you make it” with Conor Oberst, craving a sense of anonymity with her (now late) dog on a spaceship with Julien Baker, or reflecting on intimacies past and present in Stranger in the Alps, Phoebe Bridgers has carved her way into mainstream indie-star status. She’s insightful, charismatic, and unapologetically melancholy in her songwriting, with a strong sense of agency over her craft. These qualities are both refreshing and undoubtedly necessary for a female indie artist in a male-dominated scene. Whether your opinions on her are good or bad, she will most likely continue to pump out new releases as herself, or some other moniker, for years to come.

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst aka Better Oblivion Community Center will be performing a sold-out show in DC at Black Cat on Wednesday, April 3rd.

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Phoebe Bridgers Has No Chill