Phoebe Bridgers: Copycat Killer

In the wake of her critically-acclaimed album Punisher, Phoebe Bridgers has released an EP titled Copycat Killer. Consisting of rerecordings of four songs from her latest album, Copycat Killer restructures the instrumental aesthetic of Punisher, replacing indie, acoustic guitar-driven melodies with string arrangements by Rob Moose.

When listening to Copycat Killer, it’s impossible to experience it independent of the excellence found on Punisher. Bridgers’s sophomore album was a starkly beautiful success; beyond gorgeous instrumentals, as found on its second single “Kyoto,” Punisher featured poetically haunting lyricism. The strengths of Punisher are then understandably present on Copycat Killer. Kicking off with her new version of “Kyoto,” Bridgers presents the same, deeply touching lyrics of the original while Moose contributes an undoubtedly beautiful arrangement. On paper, this collaboration should work–especially given Moose’s strings credit on Punisher. And in some ways, it does. Bridgers’s heartfelt vocals are matched by passionate musicianship. But in other ways, the combination feels awkward and clunky. Bridgers’s vocal melody is notably indie-rock oriented. In contrast, Moose’s arrangement feels more relaxed and loose. The resulting song is conflicted. Both artists are providing remarkable work, but these works don’t necessarily fit together.

Not every song on Copycat Killer struggles with this lack of homogeneity, however. Most notably, the closing track, “Punisher,” works quite well. This isn’t surprising, however, as the original version of “Punisher” worked with similar instrumentals–using strings throughout. In this way, the new version of “Punisher” is really just a stripped-back version: The fuzzy vocal and instrumental production of the original are replaced by a more straight-forward acoustic production motif while Bridgers’s vocals are more clearly layered at the top of the mix. One could question the necessity of this new version, but the song is beautiful enough to withstand such concerns.

While the aforementioned tracks have certain caveats to their success, others on Copycat Killer are, in some ways, more successful than on Punisher. Bridgers’s new version of “Chinese Satellite” finds an expansive beauty less present on the original. Moose’s strings compliment Bridgers’s voice with celestial beauty–plucking through the verses before transitioning to enchanted bowing during the chorus.

Similar success is found on “Savior Complex.” Colorful instrumentals dance around Bridgers’s voice in an immersive performance, reaching the imagined potential of a Bridgers-Moose collaboration. Though the song’s original version also utilized strings, Moose’s new arrangement grabs your attention with poetic subtlety reminiscent of Bridgers’s lyricism. Ultimately, the song succeeds in respecting its masterful original version while orchestrating new, impressive results. Had every song on Copycat Killer reached this level of success, it would be hard to grade the EP much lower than 9.5/10. Still, despite some tracks being hard to recommend in the face of their original versions, Copycat Killer is an undoubtedly lovely collection of songs. Should Moose and Bridgers work together again, it’s hard to imagine a world where their final product is anything less than stunning.

Rating: 7.5/10

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