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2017's Best New Artist Might Just Be Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers' new single is titled "Smoke Signals."
Frank Ockenfels
Courtesy of the artist
Phoebe Bridgers' new single is titled "Smoke Signals."

So far, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers is known primarily for one 7" single ("Killer," released in 2015 via Ryan Adams' label) and opening slots on occasional tours, most recently for Conor Oberst. But she seems due for a major breakthrough this year, not least because every song the 22-year-old has put into the world — all three from the 7" and now a new single called "Smoke Signals" — is consistently, strikingly beautiful.

Like fellow rising stars Julien Baker (with whom she's toured) and Julia Jacklin, Bridgers immediately presents as a formidable talent: She's got a voice powerful enough to command any stage, but with intimate phrasing that cries out for late-night drives and walks under headphones. In "Smoke Signals," she crams a relationship's worth of emotions, milestones and small details — a week in the wilderness, the deaths of Lemmy and Bowie, the scene surrounding a Holiday Inn — into five and a half slowly but powerfully unfurling minutes.

"Smoke Signals" has also spawned a gloomy, vaguely unsettling video, which Bridgers describes as "pretty much just a drawn-out version of a couple scenes from Carnival Of Souls, but instead of random dead dudes, it's all my friends. I paid them in pizza. We shot it at the Masonic Hall in Highland Park, which is the coolest place ever. I'm still bummed we didn't get a shot of the secret door in the wall that opens into this weird tiny room."

"Smoke Signals" will appear on Phoebe Bridgers' forthcoming, as-yet-unannounced debut album.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)