If Punisher were to be simply defined, it would be through its experiments in emotion. Ruling each line, utterance and note is a troubled sense of conscientious recluse and isolation. If Bridgers’ 2018 debut Stranger In The Alps was an inquisition into how we associate – or disassociate – ourselves from others, Punisher delves head first into the myriad fears, anxieties and complexities of one’s sense and perception of self.
Though this paints a somewhat bleak picture, it is also worth disclosing that this is an album of gentleness and soft romanticism that offers a place of sanctuary for unsettled minds. Her voice is a warm embrace, a welcome into her world that reminds the listener that they are anything but alone in their psychological weariness. On top of this, her musical accompaniment is graceful and something to be admired in itself for the subtle understanding it affords to Bridgers’ reflective observations.
Generally, Punisher is not a major departure in sound from its predecessor. Its developments are slight and elusive – the cleanliness in sound of Stranger In The Alps has been replaced by a faint distortion that subsumes the less pronounced tones into a rich, beautiful panoramic that exudes a distant sense of relief, best demonstrated by the overawing radiance of ‘Garden Song’.
This is an, if not the, album for the locked-down age, emblematic of the sentimental struggles that many have had to face in the last months. We too will grow up, look up from our phones and see our lives, and it is Punisher that will be the prophetic soothsayer in future recollections of our times.