The lyrics of ‘Christmas Song,’ the penultimate cover on Phoebe Bridgers’ latest festive release ‘If We Make It Through December’, conjure up the quintessential image of a happy family around the table, enjoying good food and good company as they celebrate the holiday season. Yet there are also hints of a struggle – that of trying to appear happy while being, in reality, on the brink of a breakdown. There is a calm but persistent tension, and this aching feeling lingers across all four tracks of this EP to create a musical experience so memorable that it’s hard to believe it’s only eleven minutes long.
Regarding its production, I have to laud Bridgers and her team for making the songs on ‘If We Make It Through December’ feel so distinctive and yet so cohesive. The focus is always on her vocals, accompanied beautifully by the echoes of melancholic piano notes and stripped-back strings. These acoustics are restrained but never understated, able to lull the listener into a relaxed state of mind that nevertheless still consistently evokes, with disarmingly subdued but sharp precision, the desolate emotional landscapes which provide the backdrop for Bridgers’ singing. In particular, her stunning rendition of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is an absolutely gorgeous note on which to end the EP. There’s a haunting, beauty in how she draws out the lyrics, and her wistful wish that “through the years we all will be together”, especially under current circumstances, tugs at the heartstrings perhaps more than it normally would.
All in all, ‘If We Make It Through December’ shows that Phoebe Bridgers is able to turn her characteristic sounds to Christmas music and make these holiday standards her own, without losing a single touch of what makes her work so unique. It’s been a good year for our new resident favourite Christmas songstress, on the back of her widely-acclaimed release ‘Punisher’, but I for one already wish it was next December (for more reasons than one, admittedly), just so I can see what other Christmas aces Phoebe Bridgers has up her sleeve next.
[Photo Credit: David Lee]