4 minutes and 35 seconds into boygenius’ tiny desk concert, Phoebe Bridges – having just made a corny joke to the audience – says something difficult to transcribe, something along the lines of ‘auhgh, ok’, before the band’s faces tighten, as they turn to their respective instruments. Bridges then guides them through ‘Me and My Dog’ a song that mournfully burns and swells until, after one more silent bandpause, it bursts; ‘I want to be emaciated, I want to hear a sad song without thinking of you.’ Emaciated means to be stretched out, like butter spread over too much bread. I love and empathise with the idea of it being a darkly desirable thing, like an emotional diet. Phoebe Bridges writes the kind of songs so drenched in emotion that they charge or damage its listeners; youtube commenters talk of how her album ‘absolutely destroyed me, I love it and I’m not sure I can listen to it again’ and requires them ‘to be careful when I listen because sometimes I just break down or I feel paralyzed.’
When talking about the band’s collaborative songwriting process to Fader (alongside an amazing photo shoot that I’ve pinched below), Phoebe Bridges said ‘Literally, every day we said to each other, ‘I feel so seen and heard,’” she said. “It was very ‘therapy group.’ We needed each other’s energy. I needed that female energy. I could assert myself and no one questioned me.’
I love the metaphor that compares emotions to energy in the form of heat, as in ‘he vented to me for hours about her’. The idea that, at certain times in life, your body becomes overpacked with fumes, stressed like overworn denim. The understanding of great musicians as those who understand this hot, formless substance, who can direct it to lift hot air balloons, or even channel it into great underground cooling networks so I can tap a little from my kitchen’s emo dispensary, ready for my morning commute. I really like Cruel by Snakehips and Zayn, but it feels like high-fructose, caffeinated energy, it dehydrates me and makes it harder for me to listen to anything else.
I’m finishing with a couple of other tracks that have a uniquely intense, reliable effect on me due to the power of a wounded, almost distressed vocal. I Became A Prostitute’s original version bathes itself in guitar feedback to the point where the bizarre, abstract chorus (which sounds little like the words) feels completely reasonable, like shouting to be heard above a thunderstorm. When explaining the song, its writer explained that the proverbial prostitute was himself, that it’s about feeling your life forced in directions you don’t want, so it makes sense that the lyric ‘You are the bearer of a womb without love’ explodes into broken syllables, followed by a trembling ‘is that what you said?’ It captures the stomach churning, adrenaline moment when an argument snaps and the tension of your life flows in.
City Girls make me want to hurt someone’s feelings.
There’s something about hearing an angry woman’s voice that’s so uplifting for me. You know women are thought to be submissive since really early age so for me these bad ass women scamming men and making money feel hella liberating. I feel like I can do anything, I feel confident, I feel like I have the right to fight back.
I have always loved music about food, it finds itself at the intersection between two of my most heartfelt passions. As a result I’ve always approached any music where the subject is edible with a ravenous glee that I rarely feel elsewhere. Whether it’s MF Doom, Kelis, or J Dilla, food provides perhaps the most universally understandable frame from which to construct an album around, allowing artists to create something as nourishing to the soul and their original subject was to their stomachs. This brings us to Superfood’s Don’t Say That. Sure, not all the tracks are about food, and a lot of them aren’t related to food at all, save for some choice visuals in the videos. But as music about food goes Superfood provide me with a level of energy I don’t get in many other places. Though there brit-popy sound wouldn’t last to their second album, I’m glad it existed when it did. There’s still disappointingly few albums that I can dance alone in a room to, and admittedly that’s on me, but this is one of those few. Superfood just have something that I can’t quite put my finger on, a sound that pushes my buttons in just the right way, and can still get me excited 5 years down the line.