Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Phoebe Bridgers – Garden Song

And we managed not to write “tonic” or “balm”…


Vikram Joseph: The deep, soft ache in the bones of every Phoebe Bridgers song feels that much more poignant right now. The muted flicker of “Garden Song” sounds like an underwater pool sequence in a film, and plays out like a fractured montage, a string of unconnected visions and recollections which form not a narrative but rather an oblique window into Bridgers’ psyche, a thousand stills coalescing into a single image capturing something devastatingly precise. The image of a movie screen turning into a tidal wave sticks with me, as does the strange, lovely line “The doctor put her hands over my liver / she told me my resentment’s getting smaller.” It ends by (probably inadvertently) echoing Billie Eilish — “I have everything I wanted” — in both cases, a line so loaded it weighs the song down like an anchor. It’s hard to think of a voice in music that moves me more right now.

Alfred Soto: It begins with a scratched, warped string loop. If we could see memories, they would also look scratched and warped. Gnomic lines (“The doctor put her hands over my liver/She told me my resentment’s getting smaller”) suit Phoebe Bridgers’ furtive approach. She sings as if she holds secrets close, which can be off-putting. 

Michael Hong: Throughout “Garden Song,” Phoebe Bridgers’ voice seems to shake with nervousness, like every thought is sung apprehensively in case someone might overhear. The rest of the track takes shape around her voice, like a calming wisp of smoke, but that shakiness reverberates across, never letting the track fully form and creating the unsettling feeling that it’ll blow over with the slightest draft.

Katherine St Asaph: I think I just need my folk music to have venom and spikes.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “Garden Song” both succeeds on the virtue of and is held back by its skeletal nature. Its solo guitar and vocal arrangement (give or take a deep bass backing vocal) is less folky than ghostly, lending the whole song something the feeling of waking up from an afternoon nap in the sun, still dazed and incoherent but full of warmth. It’s an insubstantial feeling, but Bridgers handles it well.

David Sheffieck: Balancing halfway between unsettling and elegant, but teetering between the two; like a chaotic good take on an early Animal Collective track, this is beautiful even as it disorients. Bridgers starts out threatening to murder a skinhead and winds up in a meditation on aging and contentment; somewhere in between there’s a kind of transfixing peace.

Ian Mathers: It kind of surprises me each time “Garden Song” ends as soon as it does, because between the looped or almost-looped guitar (very soothing), the little bits and pops and crackles applied to it (somehow even more soothing) and how good Bridgers’ voice sounds over it, I could easily sit here for another ten or twenty or thirty minutes, just letting the narrative unspool. It’s the kind of song that briefly makes all other songs feel slightly awkward because they’re not just further unfurlings of this beautiful, melancholy thing.

Alex Clifton: It’s the musical equivalent of Lady Bird, which is to say it’s a beautiful collage of memories related to change and growing up and finding yourself, but I will cry if I think about it too much.

Reader average: [7.25] (4 votes)

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