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.
While it’s true that Slugger boasts more electronic flourishes and modern pop conventions than any Speedy Ortiz record, Dupuis’ ability to make dense arrangements feel accessible is something both projects share. The songs on Slugger are delicately layered, often eschewing Dupuis’ intricate guitar lines for synths, keyboards, and danceable back beats. “<2” merges all these sounds right off the bat, with Dupuis offering up a wordy hook that will immediately feel comforting to fans of Major Arcana.
It’s a novel trick that Slugger pulls off, feeling different enough from Dupuis’ regular work to warrant a new name, but familiar enough to appeal to those who prefer her out-and-out rocking. When guitars do pop up, like on the riff-forward “Line Up,” they’re manipulated in ways that make them sound as alien as possible. Elsewhere, Dupuis does her best to work against pop song tropes. “Just A Friend” is a direct response to Biz Markie’s classic of the same name, noting that, yes, a woman can have a man in her life who is just a friend. Similarly, “Get A Yes” is a simple ode to consent, destroying all pop song notions of chasing an ambivalent lover and instead finding that respect for another person can be just as sexy.
That’s what makes Slugger such a worthwhile outing. The songs all work inside established frameworks but twist them until they feel fresh. And really, that’s all Speedy Ortiz has ever done, too. It shows that Dupuis is a songwriter who can make any genre feel her own, regardless of what moniker she elects to release it under.