Track Review: Phoebe Bridgers – Kyoto

The second single from L.A. singer-songwriter’s sophomore studio effort is tremendous and roaring

Stream or purchase:
Release date: 09/04/20
Label: Dead Oceans

‘Kyoto’ follows February’s ‘Garden Song’, with indie darling Phoebe Bridgers officially announcing alongside its release Punisher, her second solo record. Punisher follows 2017’s Stranger in the Alps, a delicate and challenging album well on its way to cult classic status, as well as an especially fruitful period of collaboration with the likes of Conor Oberst, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus. Bridgers’ reputation within her scene is utterly secured by this point — ‘Kyoto’ builds on it with ease and success.

Notably, the track is handsomely arranged. The chorus’ blaring brass fits extremely comfortably with the explosive refrain, and the chugging, gain-heavy guitars bolster the verse’s low toms for a nice sense of dissonance, especially against such kind melodies. It doesn’t sound quite akin to the soft acoustics that Phoebe might be stereotyped for, but the anecdotal lyrics and general personality keep it dear to her style. It is more sonically reminiscent of ‘Motion Sickness’ than it is ‘Funeral’, or anything from boygenius.

Discussing the song, Bridgers said: “I wrote this one as a ballad first, but at that point I was so sick of recording slow songs, it turned into this.” This can be felt in the track; the singer-songwriter’s typical charms are transferred and grafted onto a vaguely fresh sound for her solo material. While we’ve heard more violent instrumentation before, on Better Oblivion Community Center‘s ‘Big Black Heart’ for instance, the energy of ‘Kyoto’ propels it to stand out. Indeed, there’s a sobering sense of victory in Bridger’s chorusing, and the ordinarily musing lyrics are made to sound emotive, even a little sardonic, against zealous instrumentation. It’s a refreshing, subtle spin on her songwriting, as we are asked to identify with Phoebe’s fervour, rather than with her melancholy. I really like what the track accomplishes as a single, as well as a footnote in the author’s discography. It is a roarer.

Header image: Dead Oceans

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