Carpark Records · November 11th, 2016
By: Caroline Smith
*Out of 5
In her debut solo project under the name “Sad13”, Northampton native Sadie Dupuis explores a new genre: pop. Although she’s traditionally known for her work as the lead guitarist, vocalist, and lyricist of indie rock band Speedy Ortiz, Dupuis noted in a recent interview with Bitch Media that pop music has always fascinated her. Through the lens of this new genre, Dupuis continues on the songwriting streak that she found herself on when writing Speedy Ortiz’s most recent full-length album, 2015’s Foil Deer. Slugger expands on similar themes: a breakup from an abusive relationship and female empowerment that Foil Deer introduced, but this time with a Charli XCX-esque pop twist. A poetry MFA student at UMass Amherst and a graduate of Barnard College with a concentration in poetry, these themes are executed once again through Dupuis’s crafty lyrics and sharp wit.
Extremely in character for Dupuis—the same woman who wrote Speedy Ortiz’s take-no-shit anthem “Raising the Skate” in which she proclaims “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss” off of Beyoncé’s “Ban Bossy” campaign—Slugger is unapologetically feminist throughout. The album was written in the aftermath of her father’s death in 2015 and her breakup with her abusive ex-boyfriend and eventual stalker that same year. Obviously, emotions were running high for Dupuis, and that’s something I really caught onto in listening to the album—songs like “Fixina” and “Tell U What” feel raw, and Dupuis doesn’t hold back with lyrics unlike how she might have on a Speedy Ortiz song. Particularly enlightening is when she sings “they wanna lick my asshole” in “Hype.” In a statement on Twitter, Dupuis writes, “Everyone engages in self-care differently… but I’ve always coped with depression by working.”
Songs like “Fixina” and “Line Up” can easily be compared to the familiar guitar rock sound Dupuis brings to Speedy Ortiz. But Dupuis also departs to a newer, poppier sound on tracks like the consent-oriented “Get A Yes”, the pro-femininity “<2”, and my new favorite female friendship anthem, “Hype.” The songs are catchy and melodic but still hold Dupuis’s biting lyrics. A favorite lyric of mine is from “Just A Friend,” a song that rolls its metaphorical eyes at the ridiculous expectations often inherent in female-male friendships. Dupuis sings, “I’m always his fan, got the broken glass bottles trash role models nihilism down pat”. Not only does that sound pretty damn good to say, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “nihilism” in a pop song before. Equally notable is the emotional “Tell U What”, in which Dupuis quite obviously comments on her past abusive relationship. She sings, “You just throw me round like trash, when I’m worth every dime you have, tell you what: I’m not worth your violence.”
Dupuis cites ’90s pop rock singer Liz Phair and art pop singer-songwriter Fiona Apple as influences, so this style seems to have personal roots for Dupuis. After my first listen, I described the album as “the love child of Liz Phair and Charli XCX”. That still rings true. It is pop-influenced, but, conversely, it is progressive, occasionally discordant, and much more guitar-punk-heavy than what we normally expect of traditional pop. Ranging from fun and animated to fast, heavily-layered, and sporadically chaotic music, Slugger is one of the most lyrically impressive, curious, and entertaining albums of this holiday season. Lit AF 4.5/5.
Listen to Slugger here: