Three years ago, California's Phoebe Bridgers was little known outside Los Angeles, but these days she is the singer-songwriter du jour, the American equivalent of Laura Marling in the sense that she has clearly been influenced by songwriting stylists yet brings her own singular sensibilities to the work. Like Marling, Bridgers is as emphatic a songwriter as they come, but there's a satirical if not self-lacerating edge to her work that marks her out not only as self-aware but also unabashedly no-filter.
It might be that as a somewhat younger performer she is more attached to technology than the bookish Marling (“When I grow up I’m going to look up from my phone and see my life,” she sings on the graceful Garden Song), but that doesn’t make the intention any less potent.
The arrangements make their presence felt with the lightest of touches. Songs such as Kyoto (“I’m gonna kill you if you don’t beat me to it”) and I See You (“It’s amazing to me how much you can say when you don’t know what you’re talking about”) have seriously good kiss-off lines topped with melodies Elliott Smith would have been proud of. It amounts to controlled frustration allied with some of the best saw-toothed pop-folk tunes you’ll hear this year.