Sad13 – Slugger Review

The face of Speedy Ortiz releases her first solo record.
Carpark Records, 2016
Purchase: Carpark Records / Amazon

7.5 / 10

If you and I were to play a game, High Fidelity style, and you asked out of any current band, I was able to pluck one member out to make their own solo record, it’d be Sadie Dupuis. As the front of Speedy Ortiz, she’s charismatic and smart, but more importantly, a superb songwriter and musician. In today’s personality-less music scene, Speedy Ortiz’s nostalgic rock music is guided by a wry, observant, slightly anxious perspective. Recorded under the name Sad13, her debut solo album is Slugger — it has all of the ingredients you were hoping for, but maybe not in the same quantities you expected.

Ostensibly, Slugger is a pop album. But it’s a pop album in the same way that Mike Patton’s Peeping Tom is a pop album — it’s radio-friendly music filtered through an auteur’s perspective. For Sadie Dupuis, that means this melody-driven music is still brainy, askew, and slightly messy. The key difference between Slugger and any other Speedy Ortiz record is that Sad13 uses more synth and less amped-up guitars. And still, it’s not that different from Speedy Ortiz, especially considering that they’re releasing songs like “Puffer” now, which would fit on a record like Slugger.

Dupuis incorporates a lot of positive messages on Slugger, particularly for young women. For example, “The Sting” and “Get a Yes” are all about sexual consent: “I say yes to the dress when I put it on / I say yes if I want you to take it off / I say yes for your touch when I need your touch / I say yes if I want to, if you want to you gotta get a yes.” Now, “Get a Yes” is a catchy song, and I completely agree with its message. However, there’s something about it that feels incredibly corny. Sexual consent is a matter of human decency and dignity — only despicable assholes violate it. For this reason, “Get a Yes” feels like a song about manners, the same way a song about why we shouldn’t kill someone in cold blood feels obvious. The message is just too on-the-nose, so that if someone who is likely to ignore sexual consent hears it, they’d disregard it. For something more effective, take “Sex Type Thing” by Stone Temple Pilots as a comparison. The song takes the perspective of a disgusting pig, telling a woman: “I know you want what’s on my mind / I know you like what’s on my mind.” STP aren’t signifiers for feminity, but the lyrics of the song highlight the importance of consent without ever feeling like it’s delivering a message. It’s more effective. Than again, I’m male, so feel free to disregard my feelings about this.

Slugger is a solidly solo work — Dupuis stands as the inarguable author, writing, composing, producing and performing every aspect of the album. Some of the drums feature Julian Fader (from Ava Luna), making this, in some regards, the closest thing we’ll ever get to another Quilty record. But even though this is a solo work, it’s hard to say that it sounds like what a Sadie Dupuis album would sound like. Slugger sounds like a mask. It sounds affected. It sounds self-conscious at times, when other albums (like The Death of Speedy Ortiz) don’t show an ounce of that. Perhaps Speedy Ortiz is the mask — a front that has always hidden this playful, intelligent pop star?

Key Tracks:
“Less Than 2”
“Tell U What”