On Saturday, March 3, 2018, Phoebe Bridgers and a group of musicians took the stage at “CBS This Morning” and changed expectations of what jangly, folk-indie music can sound and feel like. Bridgers performance sparkled, not with cheap gimmicks, but with an urban intimacy that shows attention to the craft of songwriting. The lyrics and mood shine through the jangled chords and encourage audiences to lean into the world of the song.
Bridgers exhibited a laidback exuberance during her interview on the popular morning show. During the interview, Bridgers explained the experiences she had as a toddler, exploring music through humming. Her voice is soft but has the muted crispness associated with those who are aware of speaking to an audience, and of those who are used to choosing their words carefully.
The 23-year-old Los Angeles native studied jazz in high school, reports the Los Angeles Times, but found that the style wasn’t for her. Music remained part of her life, and the singer took on a different genre. By 2016, Bridger had become a burgeoning force in the music industry. Astute audiences might remember Bridger from an iPhone commercial that aired in 2014 singing a cover version of The Pixies’ “Gigantic.” Even then, Bridger’s forthright style was memorable.
In 2017, Bridgers released her debut album, “Stranger in the Alps.” One of the songs that poignantly portrays Bridgers’ approach to the craft of songwriting is the single “Motion Sickness.” Style-wise, Bridgers might remind some listeners of Aimee Mann.
“Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers
While some listeners might feel as though they have heard the soundscape before. The song’s instrumentation is rich with guitars that jangle. Sometimes the guitars create a hollow buzz and the drums are a gentle crash that keeps everything moving.
More interesting than the soundscape are Bridgers’ words. It is clear that the narrator is upset with someone. The lyrics express a thoughtful unease with what is going on. The rhyme scheme is unusual because of Bridger’s word choice.
The feeling the song evokes is what can be called urban intimacy. It is the kind of closeness that comes from people in an urban area having a shared experience. The song is elliptical in all the right places. Bridger doesn’t have to tell her object or her audience that the price of the hypnotherapist is 1500 “dollars.” That the monetary unit is left off doesn’t confuse listeners and allows the song to continue moving.
The way the lyrics are written is non-traditional. There isn’t the kind of chorus that sits as a block of text waiting to be sung between verses. Instead, the line “I have emotional motion sickness/somebody roll the windows down,” forms the beginning of a couple stanzas, and just that works to form the song’s theme.
Bridgers’ work is smart, thoughtful and up-to-the-minute. She crafts songs that mean something to a variety of people and the unobtrusive style makes them even more enjoyable.
In the spring of 2018, Bridgers is on tour. The schedule includes shows in which the singer supports Bon Iver. Dates include stops in the US and UK, some of which are sold out.