By Maddie James, Staff Writer
[Dead Oceans, 2020]
Key tracks: “Kyoto”, “Savior Complex”
Several months after the release of her sophomore album, Punisher, in June, indie artist Phoebe Bridgers uses her new EP Copycat Killer as a fresh take on four songs from the album. The EP is a collaboration with Grammy-winning string musician Rob Moose, known for his work with artists such as Paul Simon, Taylor Swift and John Legend. The new versions of the songs are well-produced but don’t stray much from the source material.
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“Kyoto” makes for a beautiful start to Copycat Killer. The original version of “Kyoto” from Punisher used guitars and a trumpet to add a playful element to the lyrics in stark contrast to the new recording. Now, a slower tempo and sophisticated string instrumentation add a polished finish to a much more melancholy and desperate song. The range of emotions Bridgers expresses without changing the lyrics is impressive and well-executed both times.
“Savior Complex” is much closer to the original. Though the Punisher version leans more toward indie acoustic, both have a slower, more reflective tempo. The use of strings in Copycat Killer adds a sense of empty space to the song. The new version is impressively cinematic, sounding as though it should be in the soundtrack to a movie like Arrival. The pared-back instrumentation and lyrics referencing long highway trips make it reminiscent to a liminal space.
The latter half of Copycat Killer is disappointing. Though the strings maintain the polished cinematic tone of the first two songs, “Chinese Satellite” and “Punisher” are both anticlimactic. The rhythm at the beginning of “Chinese Satellite” builds up in a way that promises an impressive climax, but the actual result doesn’t have much energy behind it. On the other hand, the instrumentation of “Punisher” clashes with the vocals, and it sounds like the end of the song for … the entire song. Both songs are similar to the original Punisher version in pace and style, but the minimal instrumentation on “Chinese Satellite” makes it much easier to hear the vocals.
Though Bridgers makes some changes from Punisher to Copycat Killer, they’re not drastic. The refined strings pair well with Bridger’s vocals, meaning the issue isn’t with the songs themselves but the lack of distinction between the two versions. Copycat Killer is a well-made EP, even if it’s a little too similar to the original.