Album Review: Phoebe Bridgers – Copycat Killer EP

[Dead Oceans; 2020]

Releasing an EP shortly after dropping a full-length album is not the most common phenomenon; they are most often released as standalone works or as precursors to an upcoming full length. In Phoebe Bridgers’ case, Copycat Killer is a four-track offering of reworked songs from her most recent full-length effort Punisher; usually this kind of release comes out quite some time after the main LP, after some touring has taken place and the success of the album could be gauged, which in turn lets the artist know if releasing reworked songs from that album would be a worthwhile endeavor. Of course, in 2020 touring has not been a possibility, so Bridgers killed the time by enlisting Grammy-winning arranger Rob Moose to create these new versions of four Punisher favorites.

Now, most often artists who drop a release of reworked songs (especially of such recent ones) open themselves up to scrutiny of attempting to capitalize on the same effort multiple times — like Apple does with refurbished and ‘improved’ electronics. In the case of Copycat Killer, I would not be so quick as to assign the ‘refurbished’ label onto it. The differences between these new versions and the originals are where Bridgers proves herself as a talented songwriter and artist. Their order within the EP works together to create a new mood, and the listener easily comprehends why Copycat Killer is worth attention after having experienced Punisher. These new versions are not worlds apart from the originals, but the value is in the very small things such as subtle melody changes and different track ordering – working beautifully with Moose’s orchestral talents.

It is of course incidental, however, my personal listening experience of Phoebe Bridgers’ EP was all the more enhanced by my surroundings. As I was sitting down to listen to it, the sun was preparing to voyage beneath the horizon; there is a special kind of anguish that one feels during this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun sets ever so early. As I was halfway into Copycat Killer, I gazed out to the dusky street and noticed that it was snowing very lightly, and Bridgers’ tender vocals over melancholic violin melodies truly served as a great soundtrack. Bridgers’ EP both evoked an emotional response in me and fit the setting I was in – and this is more than enough to make Copycat Killer a noteworthy standalone release.