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  • Jenelle Burgess

A Definitive (And Bordering On Incoherent) Ranking of Phoebe Bridgers’s Punisher

Cover Art: Alex Chen

As we crawl further into the new year and attempt to ensure the best year possible, there are two very important things that we should come around to acknowledging: Phoebe Bridgers supremacy and my phenomenal music taste. And on that note, it only makes sense to bestow unto the people my definitive ranking of Phoebe Bridgers’ most recent album Punisher, complete with all of my bordering on incoherent notes from my first time listening to it.

Now, this album has been out since June 2020, so I thought I might also give my updated ranking after months of obsessing over these tracks, feeling really deep and cool for understanding them, and kissing Ms. Bridger’s holy, holy feet. I heavily suggest listening to the album as you read my rankings, especially if you are a Phoebe Bridgers virgin.

Without further ado, here is my ranking of Punisher and the messy notes I took during my initial listen:

11. Graceland Too

fiddle, feels very country at first, very folk lyrically, disney movie intro-y, really high harmonies are really nice

10. Savior Complex

very different from other tracks, feels so so minor, lyrical style also feels different, viola? solo!!!, feels very cyclical, i like how the tagline ties the whole song together (the idea of needing to fix this person even though she realizes their presence is bad in her life), horn slide? at end is so cool

9. Moon Song

simpler instrumentation, r&b percussion, simpler lyrics but very nuanced, harmonies on moon are so nice, you’re sick and you’re married and you might be dying but you’re holding me like water in your hands!!!, really really hits with lyrics

8. Halloween

bass!!!, dialogue, dissonant notes

7. ICU

starts off really peppy, instrumentation feels contrasting to singing, drop off, feels like i’m swimming underwater, feels pink but also very phoebe's style, love how it feels a bit all over the place until the drop off/chorus when she realizes her feelings and ties everything together, i love the drums so much

6. DVD Menu

such a cool intro, very violiny, very baroquey, love a good old fashioned album intro

5. Punisher

distortion is so cool, stucco line!!, easing in and out of echo is amazing, dream sequence, the abrupt ending is SO COOL

4. Chinese Satellite

i wish i wrote it but i didn’t so i learn the words!!, the buildup was not disappointing, strings section!!!, so many different vibes, such a cool subversion of genres, the whispering harmonies are amazing, the buildups and slowdowns are so smooth, there's so much happening but it works so well

3. I Know the End

the first few lines are WOW, feels very gentle, distorted radio/phasing is so cool — makes everything feel like it’s in slow motion, really nice mix of her observational and metaphorical lyrical styles, sudden change in rhythm and mood is cool, big bolt of lighting sound effects are so cool, BUILD UP AND CORRESPONDING LYRICS ARE SO AMAZING WOW, HORNS, bruh i love the build up with no longer being afraid of death and acceptance of growing old why is that SO COOL, THE TWO TONES OF THE SONG WORK SO WELL WITH THE TWO IDEAS, screaming and progressively minor turn is very unexpected but again works, dissonance at end is AMAZING, perfect closer

2. Kyoto

beginning feels very nostalgic children’s tv commercial, paramorey, love the rock take on her style, love anecdotal lyrical style here, HORNS, summer song, feels like a bitter childhood memory

1. Garden Song

the vibes are so so nice, the harmonies slap, the lyrics are just WOW incredible classic phoebe, such interesting instrumentation

Now that I have listened to the album many, MANY times over, gone down fan theory rabbit holes, and tweets from Phoebe herself explaining lyrics, I feel I have been more able to truly and comprehensively take in the genius that it is. And I can now easily say that I was so wrong with many of my rankings, but you will see that in a second. Without further ado, my current Punisher ranking, which could alternatively be called “Punisher Tracks in Order of How Often I Cry to Them”(complete with my favorite lyric from each track):

11. Graceland Too

This song is one of the few songs that maintains its ranking. Don't get me wrong, this track is gorgeous and the lyrics are amazing, it's just a bit too country feeling for me, so I don't tend to gravitate towards it as much. I still think the instrumentation is really cool, though.

Favorite Lyric: “So we spent what was left of our serotonin to chew on our cheeks and stare at the moon”

10. ICU

This song is unfortunately another victim of circumstance. I think I just didn't end up getting into this song as much as its counterparts higher up on the list, though I still have a soft spot for that drop off.

Favorite Lyric: “I've been playing dead my whole life and I get this feeling whenever I feel good,

it'll be the last time” OR “If you're a work of art, I'm standing too close, I can see the brush strokes”

9. Chinese Satellite

The melody of this song is so pretty, and in the process of figuring out my ranking for this video, I realized I should definitely listen to it more than I do. I also am still a very big fan of the build-up at the chorus.

Favorite Lyric: “Sometimes, when I can't sleep, it's just a matter of time before I'm hearing things, Swore I could feel you through the walls but that's impossible, I want to believe”

8. DVD Menu

This is such a classic album intro, which I appreciate because those are kind of rare to find these days. I solemnly believe that the album would not be the same without this track.

7. Halloween

I absolutely love the chorus of this song and how anecdotal it feels. Also the lyrics plus the melody are a perfect crying combination, which feels very unfair to me.

Favorite Lyric: “Baby, it's Halloween and we can be anything… Ill be whatever you want”

6. Garden Song

I simply can not get over the feel of this song and how absolutely genius these lyrics are. Every minute of this song is crafted masterfully.

Favorite Lyric: “Everything's growing in our garden, You don't have to know that it's haunted”

5. Savior Complex

Upon accidentally revisiting this song a few weeks ago while looking for songs to cover, I have a newfound appreciation for it. I say this in my original notes, but the way the ideas in the verses are tied together by the tagline when it finally comes around is breathtaking every time. Aslo, after playing this song on the guitar a few times, I can say it definitely has one of the coolest melodies on the album. It also breaks up the album really well.

Favorite Lyric: “Baby, you're a vampire, You want blood and I promised, I'm a bad liar with a savior complex”

4. Kyoto

This song obviously gets extra points because it’s a rock song, but it is so cool how Phoebe is still able to make the genre, though not one of her more conventional ones, her own; The energy of this track retains such a unique quality about it. Also, after learning what the song is actually about, I am even more amazed at how well done it is.

Favorite Lyric: “I'm gonna kill you if you don't beat me to it” OR “I don't forgive you but please don't hold me to it”

3. I Know the End

I would say this song is in my top three closing tracks ever. It ends the album so perfectly and with so much closure that you're almost angry. Also, the fact that it's basically split up into two sections that develop on the same idea, each with corresponding instrumentation, will never cease to be amazing. (The music video for this song is also really cool).

Favorite Lyric: “Over the coast, everyone's convinced it's a government drone or an alien spaceship, Either way, we're not alone, I'll find a new place to be from”

2. Punisher

It was admittedly very hard to figure out whether this song or “I Know the End” deserved the number two spot, but I kid you not when I say that since learning what this song was about and relistening to it, I have probably sobbed incessantly to it just as much as I have eaten, and I think the former has arguably provided me with more sustenance. It is so beautifully written, and I feel like I can visualize all of the lyrics in my head everytime I listen to it. It's just the perfect amount of sadness and nostalgia and bitterness. I have no idea how to articulate how much I love this track other than that when I listen to it feels like the lyrics have buried themselves down somewhere deep inside me and they are pushing their way out through my pores, destroying a few of my organs as they gash through my body and implode my stomach, and all that's left to do is scream the words.

Favorite Lyric: “What if I told you I feel like I know you but we never met?” OR “Here, everyone knows you're the way to my heart”

1. Moon Song

For months after listening to the album again after my initial listen, I was OBSESSED with this track. It just feels perfectly melancholy and desperate, and there was a period of time where I would play it for absolutely anyone who would listen. This song is just perfect to sing to yourself alone in your room, and I have probably played it more times on the guitar in a week than I can count on my fingers. The metaphors, parallels, and “lore” behind it are just unbelievable, and Exhibits A-H of why Phoebe Bridgers is simply a musical genius.

Favorite Lyric: “You are sick and you're married and you might be dying, but you're holding me like water in your hands”

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