Phoebe Bridgers didn’t know the pandemic was coming. But you’d never know it from “I Know the End,” an opulent, chaotic song about our shared apocalypse from her Grammy-nominated album Punisher, widely regarded as one of the best new releases of 2020. Seer, artist, “master of collapse”—all of these descriptions are accurate, but the highest praise I can deliver is how much Phoebe reminds me of discovering Tori Amos in my wayward youth. Not just her style—a clear voice pinning impressionistic lyrics to lush instrumentals—but her music’s inescapable mood: being 18, circling my college campus with my Walkman in the middle of the night, letting music that captures the terrible queer haunted ugly gorgeous heartbreak of the unfolding world rinse over me. Whether it’s enraging milquetoast reply guys by smashing a guitar on live TV or carving out a space as a furious, ethereal prophet, she’s as good as she is singular. I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather follow through our poisoned age.
Machado is a best-selling author of the memoir In the Dream House and other works. Her short story “Yesterday, Tomorrow” was featured on Bridgers’ album Punisher