Sad13: Haunted Painting (Wax Nine) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #67 - Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney

Haunted Painting

Wax Nine

Sep 30, 2020 Sad13 Bookmark and Share

Sadie Dupuis may be best known as the frontwoman, guitarist, and lyricist for Speedy Ortiz, but she also displayed a gift for glittery DIY pop with her work under the pseudonym Sad13. First releasing “Basement Queens” in 2016 with Lizzo—before Lizzo was a household name—then following up with her full-length debut Slugger, Dupuis proved herself as an expert pop songsmith. Though it has been three years without music from Dupuis under the Sad13 moniker, she released another Speedy Ortiz album as well as a book of poetry in the meantime. Haunted Painting, Dupuis’ returning solo album, is a step up in production, songwriting, and maximalist pop hooks with intelligent lyrical musings running beneath the glossy surface.

Dupuis already has shown a knack for catchy earworms with Speedy Ortiz, but the crisp production and varied instrumentals on Haunted Painting make her hooks pop more than ever. Following the brief orchestral tones of the opener, Dupuis delivers explosive and addictive choruses, massive ’80s synths, and fuzzy guitar lines.

Dupuis also struts her skills as a multi-instrumentalist and arranger, playing everything from the glockenspiel to the lap steel to the theremin. The instrumental diversity adds to songs such as the bouncing “Ghost (of a Good Time),” Dupuis’ ode to introverted house parties. Her collaborators also shine on the record, as she brings Zoë Brecher and an eight-piece orchestra on both the opener and “Take Care.” She constantly shifts tempo, tone, and instrumental palette to keep the overall package feeling fresh. As Dupuis herself puts it, the project is “decidedly non-minimal.”

The album is more than glittery pop bangers on account of Dupuis’ astute lyrical eye, apparent on tracks such as “WTD?”—a song about unquenchable human greed at any environmental cost. Dupuis sardonically asks, “If I’ve had enough of flora and fauna/Then what is the drama?” For an album that displays a great deal of Technicolor dynamism early on, it dims to a surprisingly dark domain. Dupuis reflects on death in “Good Grief,” examining how life feels superficial and surreal following a deep loss. Later, she conjures an outsized prog rock approach on “The Crow,” written shortly after the tragic death of David Berman of Silver Jews and Purple Mountains. Here, Dupuis considers whether art can ever sufficiently respond to the world’s cascading emergencies. She questions, “Who dares find joy in this terror?” Her reflective lyrical touch underscores the album with a depth beneath its freewheeling instrumental approach.

Pop is often unfairly equated with being one-dimensional. Haunted Painting exhibits why that is absolutely not the case. Sadie Dupuis wears many hats, and the product of her impulse to try everything pays off: a well-crafted record that balances weighty lyrics with eminently catchy songwriting. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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