Phoebe Bridgers offers a holiday cover of ‘So Much Wine’

A woman with platinum-blond hair wears a glam skeleton suit at an event
Phoebe Bridgers has released a benefit cover of the Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine.”
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers continued her run of somber Christmas-song activism on Thursday by dropping a cover of the Handsome Family’s 2000 song “So Much Wine.”

Each holiday season since 2017, when Bridgers released a cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” the L.A.-based artist has shared her take on a Christmas classic. This year the proceeds will go to the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Bridgers’ melancholic, acoustic or stripped-down covers act as counter-programming of sorts, trudging against the blizzard of cheery, maximalist holiday music that fills shopping malls and commercials during the Christmas season.


Bridgers anchors the “So Much Wine” cover with her signature folksy acoustic guitar. Her vulnerable, empathetic vocals match the sorrowful lyrics of the song, written by Rennie Sparks of the Handsome Family, in which the speaker laments a loved one’s battle with alcohol addiction.

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“I had nothing to say on Christmas Day / When you threw all your clothes in the snow,” the song begins.

Then in the song’s chorus and emotional high point — swelling with harmonies, with a fiddle riffing and percussion thumping — Bridgers offers an impassioned plea: “Listen to me, butterfly / There’s only so much wine / That you can drink in one life / But it will never be enough / To save you from the bottom of your glass.”

The track features backup vocals from Bridgers’ boyfriend, the “Normal People” actor Paul Mescal. Offering additional vocals, fiddle and whistling is singer a multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird, who also played violin on the Handsome Family’s 2000 album “In the Air,” which includes the original “So Much Wine.”

The Handsome Family’s music has been described as gothic country, colored by macabre storytelling. Sparks, one half of the husband-wife duo, described their music to NPR in 2016 as “catharsis” and “a safe place to experience really terrifying things.”

Bridgers’ music seems to flow seamlessly from such meditations on the grim. She told The Times earlier this year that she “learned that there can be fun in the darkness,” describing the Día de los Muertos-inspired skeleton jumpsuits she often dons on stage.


In more recent years, as Bridgers began committing the proceeds of her annual holiday releases to various nonprofit organizations, her covers grew more terse and politically charged.

The artist feels duty-bound not just to keep the folk traditions he’s inherited alive, but also to correct and clarify the historical record surrounding them.

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In 2019, she, Fiona Apple and Matt Berninger dropped a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 song “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night.” Bridgers sings the Christmas hymn over news-radio programming of various currents events, such as legal opposition to abortion access, the opioid epidemic and the murder of Botham Jean, a Black man who was shot and killed inside his own apartment by a white, off-duty Dallas Police Department patrol officer Amber Guyger.

“Happy Holidays to everyone whose family has been literally or figuratively torn apart by Donald Trump,” Bridgers wrote on Facebook to promote the song. “And to my racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, hypocritical family members, f— you.”

The proceeds of that year’s track went to Planned Parenthood.

Last year, from Bridgers covered Tom Waits’ “Day After Tomorrow,” a song told from the perspective of a soldier returning from war who is grappling with having killed people for his country. Proceeds benefitted the Local Integration & Family Empowerment Division of the International Institute of Los Angeles, which supports immigrants, refugees and low-income workers in the city.

The organization at the center of this holiday’s release, the L.A. LGBT Center, is a nonprofit that assists people each month with services that including medical care, senior services, homeless-youth housing and legal services, and is one of the few federally qualified health centers with providers who specialize in primary care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender nonconforming people and people living with HIV.