On the road promoting a debut album is 23-year-old Pheobe Bridgers, who released Stranger in the Alps via Dead Oceans Records in September. Sporting vocal histrionics that range from Ann Wilson–style growls to Adele-like coos and Björkish hymnals, the album has been showcased everywhere from Pitchfork to Billboard, Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, and pretty much all the tastemaker ’zines and blogs. Rather than rely on browsing the raft of writeups, I sampled her sound first with the Tiny Desk Concert she recently performed on NPR, playing “Killer,” “Motion Sickness,” and “Demi Moore,” all three evincing a somewhat beachy Malibu vibe countered with the bittersweet musings of the local creepy girl, the one always muttering putdowns you can’t quite make out who just smiles knowingly and says, “Oh, nothing” when you ask her what she just said.
In performance, this combination of froth and melancholy always seems accompanied by a wide smile that makes her lyrical revelations seem joyous on the surface but hiding some kind of deep sadness just beneath the façade, as if she’s thrilled to have so many ears but worried about what she must say to them. This nervous dichotomy may stem from Bridgers having grown up in a Pasadena suburb while attending an urban downtown L.A. school. The video she just released for “Would You Rather,” a duet with Bright Eyes singer Conor Oberst, mixes animation and live action footage, with people wearing flashing TV screens on their heads and Bridgers always seen wearing that knowing smile of inevitability, inviting listeners in even as she warns them away. It’s an interesting performance persona that she’ll still be breaking in when she appears at Soda Bar on February 5. The bill includes Soccor Mommy. (Photo: Frank Ockenfels)