“I Know The End,” the closing track from Phoebe Bridgers’ new album Punisher, is quite possibly the best indie-rock song of the year so far. We music writers are sometimes reasonably criticized for being too liberal with the descriptor “apocalyptic,” but this one’s about the literal end of the world. It starts out as one of Bridgers’ signature sad, slow guitar ballads, and then midway through it takes a dramatic turn. As the arrangement intensifies, she spins images of societal decline — “Windows down, scream along/ To some America First rap-country song/ A slaughterhouse, an outlet mall/ Slot machines, fear of God” — until it all explodes into the sound of a decaying Earth going down in flames, the fiery orchestral bombast punctuated with hellish screams from a choir of Bridgers’ pals.
Today “I Know The End” gets a music video, and unlike “Kyoto” — which had to be a lo-fi affair after a planned shoot on location in Japan was derailed by coronavirus — this one’s a proper cinematic vision. Directed by Alissa Torvinen, it finds Bridgers and some eerie associates wandering the corridors of an empty Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Eventually a biblical onslaught worthy of the music breaks loose, but not before Bridgers and her band fit in the world’s weirdest stadium show. There’s also a climactic scream-kiss situation. It’s an extremely satisfying companion to this masterful song.
Punisher is out now on Dead Oceans.