EP review: Phoebe Bridgers reworks songwriting magic with ‘Copycat Killer’: an EP for dreamers and lovers

The Breakdown

An EP for the dreamers, lovers and and a lesson in musical apprenticeship

ENCOURAGED by the international success of her award-winning and Grammy-nominated album Punisher, the phenomenal Phoebe Bridgers has set out and reworked four tracks off the album into a vinyl release, Copycat Killer.

It’s a move seldom seen by singer-songwriters, at least not this early in their career, and on first glance I’m reminded of the success of the reworked Joni Mitchell’ album Both Sides Now, remastered and arranged by the inimitable conductor Vince Mendoza.

Bridgers, however, is just as talented, and deserves to be placed in the spotlight with this artistic move to work with award-winning arranger and string player Rob Moose, who has also arranged and recorded strings for artists including Bon Iver, Paul Simon, Alabama Shakes, Taylor Swift, The Killers, Moses Sumney, FKA Twigs, Antony & The Johnsons, Regina Spektor and others. I’m almost inclined to say that adding a phenomenal string orchestra to her work gives the much-needed depth and maturity that perhaps was less evident on Punisher, although that album stood masterfully in its own right.

Copycat Killer is not just a reworking of four of the tracks from Punisher; it’s a new work, new music, and new invention. Rob Moose’s phenomenal arrangements highlight Bridgers’ soft and youthfully vulnerable voice; she is as artful as she is angelic in sound and delivery. Her songwriting is already an impressive feat, and she stands out in the the surplus of pop singer-songwriters that often focus on over-production and technically virtuoso accompaniment. Instead, Bridgers is clearly a highly talented songwriter, creating a name for herself that resulted in this mind-blowing collaboration.

The strings provide emotion, bringing out the depth and soul of each track. “Kyoto” is, on this record, more daring in vocal performance in comparison to the Punisher version. “Saviour Complex” is more cinematic in delivery, with a perfect conversation between Phoebe and the string orchestra. Moose does well to sustain the rhythmic quality of the original guitar riff of “Chinese Satellite” by replacing it with a cello and viola pizzicato, sustaining that rock edge of the track, whilst the chorus is beautifully legato, reaching a crescendo in the crying nature of the chorus.

The final track, the title track of Punisher, is truly a lesson in rearrangement. It’s one thing to interchange instruments and its a whole other ballgame when you literally rewrite the song . That is truly a talent bestowed to a handful of musicians, and it is this track alone that can stand out as exemplary from both Phoebe and Robert. It showcases their musical relationship and hopefully, is just the beginning of a long collaboration.

An EP for the dreamers, lovers and and a lesson in musical apprenticeship, you can pre order Copycat Killer here; the EP drops on May 14th via Dead Oceans.

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