no. 44 — Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers

I… don’t even know how to begin this one. This whole project started as an attempt to impress Phoebe Bridgers, though it’s ending as something else entirely. I wrote a whole long thing about how my unhealthy obsession with Phoebe Bridgers was over, how it was never about her in the first place but instead a long, drawn out crisis about my future as either someone cool or a corporate drone, but I never posted it. I thought my options were either work for Phoebe Bridgers’s cool record label and be doing something sick and indie and aligned with my interests[1], or take my salaried corporate job and sit at a desk the rest of my life. But those aren’t the only two options and going through this blog project has proven that to me.

Would you believe me if I told you I only got into Phoebe Bridgers within the past few years? Looking at my social media from the past 6 months you wouldn’t have guessed it, but the hyper-fixation wave was more like a tsunami this time around. It’s been about a month of successful recovery from those feelings[2] and I feel like I can be a normal fan of her music again. I gotta say it was my friend Jane who first got me into her music. She told me she knew she was having a rough time because Phoebe’s album Stranger in the Alps was on repeat. I started listening in earnest then, and was quickly surprised that I wasn’t already a fan.

When Punisher came out mid-lockdown this summer, I was perfectly aligned to become obsessed. I entered the Garden Song video contest, making a music video on the Sims. I tuned in to basically every live stream and interview. I watched as she became more and more famous, slowly becoming jealous that I would never get to see her perform in a small venue the way I would’ve if I had seen her on tour before the pandemic[3]. I was unemployed and deeply depressed and in a constant state of panic, and I decided that the only person who could tell me if I was a worthy human being was Phoebe Bridgers. That’s a lot to put on one person who doesn’t even know you! That’s kind of insane!

However, as I try my damn hardest to make my self-worth an unconditional given, I’m able to re-engage with the reasons I loved Phoebe’s music in the first place. One of the things I admire about her is how open she is about her process. She describes the way she leans on her friends and the musicians she works with to help guide her sound, and I marvel at how she can do that without losing herself in the process the way I would. As a famous person, she’s ridiculously accessible, like when she tweeted the meaning behind any lyric her fans had questions about. She takes this process of making music that seems so alien and secretive to me as an outsider and she just blows it wide open. But knowing the process behind her songs doesn’t eliminate the magic. Instead, as a fan, you feel like you’re part of that process, and the music becomes even more special because it’s like you were there. And really, her songs describe moments that I actually have existed in before. Feeling like a road trip is a mythologic quest for the end of the world, realizing that you would do absolutely anything for the people you love, even if it meant destroying yourself in the process, and trying to be someone who goes on runs. It’s not just that these are relatable, it’s that these songs feel like pieces of my own ethos; small, private moments that have somehow been put out for both mass consumption and for my ears only.

So, listen, will I continue to ache after a job at Saddest Factory Records? Probably yes. But if I don’t get one, will that be the end of my life as a cool and worthwhile human being? Probably not. Will I obsessively check my social media on the off chance that Phoebe somehow reads this? Probably yes though I will try my fucking hardest not to. And will I jump at the chance to buy a ticket to whatever show she plays post-covid and get there way too early so I can be at the front and make an absolute crying fool out of myself? Definitely yes. But until then, I’m just happy to be able to have these songs and feel seen, even if the person seeing me has never known I existed.

I feel like I could write at least a thousand words on each song on this album, but maybe that will be for a later project on this blog. Until then, if you’ve somehow read this entire essay or followed me on social media without listening to Punisher, please change that and know that when you listen, you’re hearing something that is very near and very dear to my heart.

[1] Like do I even WANT to monetize my passions? Wouldn’t that take the passion out of the entire thing? If I rely on my writing for my income, won’t I start to resent it? Much to think about.

[2] Yes I did delete all posts and tweets at and about Phoebe out of shame now that I’m “calm.”

[3] Do you see what I mean about still being pretentious regarding music? Why am I gatekeeping someone else’s fame just for the sake of my own concert going experience?

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Jenna Sylvester

Jenna Sylvester

non-binary writer and gardener. I'm stressed out.