There is a mechanism inside Phoebe Bridgers that allows her to gaze unflinchingly into the pitch black of her psyche and emerge with a beautiful, bittersweet song every time. The 25-year-old singer-songwriter—who, in addition to her solo career, is one-third of boygenius and one half of Better Oblivion Community Center—will sometimes deliver her meditations on darkness and intimacy while wearing a skeleton bodysuit. Is it a gesture that could be read as a metaphor for how musicians are expected to reveal their innermost parts? Or just a goofy attempt to not take her very serious songs so seriously? It’s a little of both.
“Garden Song” is an understated rumination on lost time and complicated nostalgia that features a video that opens with her ripping a bong in a bedroom. “When I grow up, I’m gonna look up from my phone and see my life,” she sings, noting that she is none the wiser in this vision of the future. Unlike some of her biggest hits, “Garden Song” has a warped finger-picked melody that never grows into a moment of catharsis; its most significant flourish is a delicate swelling of strings that barely rise above a flutter. The slight arrangement allows for Bridgers’ humor and storytelling idiosyncrasies to shine. “The doctor put her hands over my liver/She told me my resentment’s getting smaller,” Bridgers says near the song’s end. While her delivery of imposing details like a skinhead neighbor or a charred door frame might seem casual, her songwriting is meticulously constructed from the finest of breadcrumbs. The haunted memories that reside within “Garden Song,” Bridgers suggests, are all part of a bigger picture.
Listen to our Best New Music playlist on Spotify and Apple Music.