Release Date: Nov 11, 2016
Record label: Carpark Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
It seems only fitting that in the face of moral upheaval roaring forth from recent political events, an album like Slugger is released. Sad13 is most widely known as Sadie Dupuis, lead singer and shredding guitarist of Speedy Ortiz. Taking a break from her band and moving to Philly in the wake of a break-up, Sadie focused on her solo project, Sad13, and wrote one of the most poignant records of the year.
Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz has never been afraid of tackling gender politics within her music. On "Raising the Skate," from last year's Foil Deer, Dupuis battled with the accepted narrative of women having to downplay talent for the sake of not being seen as overbearing or bitchy. On her first solo record, Dupuis builds a hypnotic odd-pop world in which consent, gender, and non-male solidarity transcend undertones to become central subject matters.
Doffing its rainbow-bagel headpiece in the vague sonic direction of No Doubt, The Cardigans, and Garbage, ‘Slugger’’s pop-leanings still have a firmly off-kilter sensibility, and Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis’ debut solo album is the sort of fired-up, fully-charged record Buffy might blast through headphones before heading out for a packed night of vampire slaying. Though Dupuis is wielding bullshit busting songs like ‘Devil in U’ instead of garlands of garlic, bubbling cauldrons, repeated horoscope references, and a healthy amount of ass-kicking (each hoof aimed firmly towards manipulative people and terrible influences) set the mood. Though ‘Slugger’ still stands up well without its activist agenda – the scuzzed-up colliding riffs of ‘Line Up’ would be just as irresistible if the song were written about sliced bread, to be honest – ‘Slugger’ is the sort of record with a vital dialogue at its centre.
'I say yes to the dress when I put it on / I say yes if I want you to take it off / If you want to, you’ve gotta get a yes.' God, how good does it feel to hear these words out loud? At the time of writing (pre-8 Nov/potential doomsday), eleven women have raised their voices with allegations against US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s grab'n'grope policies. Footballer Ched Evans literally got out of jail free after his accuser had her sexual history used against her in court. A legal battle for Ke$ha’s freedom from producer Dr.
While working on Speedy Ortiz’s last LP, 2015’s Foil Deer, Sadie Dupuis was emerging from an abusive relationship. But rather than reflecting on the experience, Foil Deer was a concrete decision to grow stronger. “I’m not going to write any songs about this person because they’re a piece of crap who doesn’t deserve my mental energy,” Dupuis told Pitchfork at the time.
On Slugger, Sadie Dupuis looks for liberation — from the clutch of unhealthy relationships, from the hypocrisy of critics who don’t value the work but still want a piece of the hype, from a society that refuses to value consent. It also seeks freedom from the boundaries of genre; the album is a solo step away from the guitar grunge of Speedy Ortiz, the band for which Dupuis is lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Slugger is not a complete stylistic departure, and by retaining a familiar electric force, she proves that labels are fluid for an ever-evolving artist.
In the three years since Speedy Ortiz’s debut appeared, frontwoman Sadie Dupuis has become one of indie’s most charismatic vocalists and sharpest lyricists. A solo release was inevitable. Question was, what form: An ascetic acoustic set would risk ignoring Speedy’s strengths, though a noisy and bombastic rock record might be indistinguishable from Foil Deer.
Sadie Dupuis is a not-so-secret fan of pop: along with professing her love for chart-friendly artists like Nicki Minaj and Charli XCX, she also added some Top 40 hooks and gloss to Speedy Ortiz's knotty indie rock on the Real Hair EP and their second full-length, Foil Deer. However, she's not a fan of the messages within decades' worth of pop songs, from "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" to "Genie in a Bottle," that blame and shame girls and women for their feelings and desires. With Slugger, Dupuis seeks to be the antidote to those poisonous ideas.
While Sadie Dupuis rose to indie rock prominence as the sassy, axe-slinging frontwoman of Massachusetts' Speedy Ortiz, she's since resettled herself amidst the thriving DIY scene of Philadelphia, and come out of it with a solo full-length under the moniker Sad13. Slugger hears her ditching grunge for grooves, and moving away from the realm of crunchy guitar rock into a dream world bedazzled with synthesizers and sugary pop hooks.It's a striking transition, but not an unsuccessful one. Dupuis' uncanny sense of melody and sharp lyricism remain the anchor to her songs, and she uses her skill with words to make an obvious and unapologetically feminist statement — several, in fact.
While Speedy Ortiz rely on the same sort of bending, distorted guitars that typified indie rock in its snarky ‘90s heyday, frontwoman/songwriter Sadie Dupuis’ perspective as a lyricist has been anything but apathetic. In her band, her songwriting voice could best be described as “positive with a bit of aggression”. Crucially, that voice remains intact on Slugger, Dupuis’ first solo album under the moniker of Sad13.
When a member of a band goes solo, it’s often assumed the artist in question is looking for a break from their normal routine. And while that’s partially true for Sadie Dupuis, the vocalist-guitarist in the indie-rock ascendants Speedy Ortiz, her first record under the Sad13 moniker doesn’t shy away from the sounds she’s been associated with. Instead, Slugger takes the scraps of ideas she’s had lying around and gives them the attention they weren’t previously afforded.
As we prepare to publish our Year-End lists (hit: it's coming very, very soon), that doesn't mean we'd still ignore our regularly scheduled Quick Takes feature. Carl and I, however, do have to acknowledge that because of the madness that goes behind-the-scenes this time of year, this month's will ….
On ‘Hype’, Dupuis encourages the supportive side of female friendship. “I just wanna hype my best girls”, she sings on the song, which was originally intended for her mainstay band. It’s a giddy rush that Taylor Swift would probably adopt as her own personal theme tune if she heard it. ‘Coming Into Powers’, meanwhile, takes on the gender pay gap (“We work as hard as those making hella dough / Cos their body’s status quo”) and women’s right to choose what they do with both their bodies and their lives (“My girls dancing on a pole got some moves I’d like to know”; “I want a life where I can be who I like”).
The fact that Speedy Ortiz frontdemon Sadie Dupuis has emerged this year as a pastel-trussed popster named Sad13 shouldn’t be much of a shock to anyone. Openly speaking of her Nicki Minaj idolatry, collaborating on a track with Lizzo, and penning Speedy Ortiz’s Kelis moment, the thumping “Puffer”, from last year’s excellent Foil Deer LP, Dupuis has built a discernible bridge to this point over the past year. Ever the wry paradox, Dupuis’s pop name founds her persona from the ground up.