Sad13 – “Slugger” Review

Speedy Ortiz frontwoman Sadie Depuis has replaced the last two letters in her forename with numbers and released an indie-pop solo album – “Slugger”. Depuis wrote and recorded the majority of the record in a two week period and it proves both intimate and meticulously put together. If you haven’t heard any of Speedy Ortiz’s stuff they’re a comic book loving alt-grunge band with articulate 90s influenced guitar lines. Fans of the band will find “Slugger” treads similar ground to Depuis’ other work, but replaces some of the string based intricacy with brazen synth lines and lyrics driven by both independence and intimacy.

The album’s first single “Say Yes” fell a bit flat for me. Although the song’s message of affirmative consent is undoubtedly an important one I didn’t particularly take to the chorus. Call me old fashioned but if you go solo for a pop album you should at the very least deliver some cracking hooks – Julian Casablancas nailed this in 2009’s “Phrazes for the Young”. One of Depuis’s greatest talents is drawing out melodic appeal from unconventional progressions and this didn’t quite translate in “Say Yes”. Elsewhere on the record “Slugger” is far more successful in this regard. The likes of “Devil in U” and “Hype” hit all the right spots with some nice instrumental frills.

Let’s talk about the lyrics, or rather sex. This may be an over-simplification, but activity of the bedroom variety and gender politics are both at the heart of Sad13’s debut. Sadie has little time for misogyny or abusive relationships – the album is brimming with empowering sentiments. This isn’t to say that “Slugger” lacks Sadie’s often wry sense of humour. Her aptitude for neat bits of imagery comes through with references to “water pistols at dawn” and “frogs in the frost”. On her Bandcamp Sad13 claims to be “a cyborg dog astrally projected from the recent past to save the middle school dance” and as much as that’s utter waffle you can almost see what she’s getting at.

Credit should be also given to Sad13 for her production and arrangements on this one. There are some really nice touches on “<2”, the album’s opener. Sad13 shifts the song’s instrumentation around throughout its runtime; it goes from dirty sounding synths, to a plucked acoustic section, to a lo-fi crescendo. If you listen closely you’ll even hear the occasional flutter of an African drum. “Tell U What” is likewise an excellently orchestrated track; all flangered guitars and sauntering piano lines.

“Slugger” is a lot like bubble-gum – it’s sweet, does something cool, but can lose something of its flavour with prolonged chewing, (“Say Yes” to questionable metaphors). It would be unfair to call the album superficial, a lot of thought went into it, but it lacks much in the way of truly killer tracks that would drag the listener by the ear back to it time and time again.



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