8:00 pm / ALL AGES / $10
It's very strange ("Or not strange at all! Hi!" says feminism) that most of the music we funnel into little girls' ears—even music written by former little girls—is about how women are petty, pretty garbage whose only valuable function is to hold perfectly still in men's boudoirs and wait for intercourse. "I wanted to make songs that were the opposite of 'Genie in A Bottle' or 'The Boy Is Mine,'" Sadie Dupuis says of Slugger, her new solo album under the name Sad13. "Songs that put affirmative consent at the heart of the subject matter and emphasize friendship among women and try to deescalate the toxic jealousy and ownership that are often centered in romantic pop songs." What!? Songs for women that actually champion women's autonomy, reflect women's desires, listen to women when they talk, and let women be funny and normal and cool, like women actually are?
After being born, which she totally nailed, Sadie grew up in New York City, toured internationally with a professional children's choir, then bounced around Massachusetts before eventually landing in Philadelphia "like every other feminist punk." She has an MFA in poetry from UMass Amherst, likes comics WITH AN ALL-CAPS PASSION, has written for Nylon and Spin, and is mega-beloved for her rock band Speedy Ortiz. Most recently, finding herself disillusioned with a lifetime of misogynist radio pop and yearning for the megalomaniacal autonomy of a solo project, Sadie/Sad13 churned out Slugger in a two-week fury.
Slugger is a pure solo effort. Sadie didn't just write and sing and play guitar, she recorded and produced the record herself in a subletted bedroom in Fishtown—a not insignificant act of feminist defiance. Despite millennia of evidence to the contrary, women in music are still relentlessly pigeonholed as, essentially, decorative. Sure, you can be a girl singer, or a girl tambourine player, or, once in a while (the height of novelty!), a girl drummer, but a girl producer? A girl engineer? Cool X-File, Mulder! Sadie steers Slugger with a serene sure-footedness, vaporizing that old lie better than any howling polemic ever could. The best revenge is to do your work.
Slugger's musical touchstones are vast and varied: contemporary pop à la Charli XCX, Santigold, Kelela, Grimes; folk songwriters Karen Dalton and Connie Converse; '90s trip-hop; riot grrrl (duh); plus Sad13's feminist indie and punk contemporaries like Tacocat, Waxahatchee, Mitski, and Bully. Slugger shouldn't feel like a revolution, but it does—in both content and execution. This is fun music about real shit.
Stef Chura's debut studio album Messes, is born of her years of experience playing around the Michigan underground, setting up DIY shows in the area, and moving around the state-nearly 20 times. "Right when it starts to feel like home / It's time to go," she sings literally on its opening cut, "Slow Motion," a twisty, dim-lit guitar pop song where she curls and stretches every word. There are worlds of emotion in the ways Chura pronounces phrases with twang and grit, alternatingly full of despair, playfulness, and abandon. Chura calls her music "emotional collage," eschewing start-to-finish storylines in favor of writing intuitively about feelings, drawing from experiences and references related to a certain sentiment.
Originally from Alpena, Michigan, Chura moved to the Ypsilanti area in 2009, where she began playing shows before ultimately moving to Detroit in 2012. Chura has been home-recording and self-releasing her songs for six years, playing bass in friends' bands as well. With a trove of demos and 4 -track home recordings, some of which she'd released on small runs of cassettes over the years, Chura says she wasn't sure what to do with her life before heading into the studio. "One of my best friends passed away and I thought, what do I have to do before I die? I have to at least make one record."
"Faded Heart" is an ode to that friend. "I thought I saw you standing on that little cloud / How did you get so loud," she sings. The second verse references something she heard Joni Mitchell say in a documentary- "If you hold sand too tightly in your hand, it will run through your fingers." Like Joni, Chura favors finger-picked guitar, a style she's been honing for over 10 years, drawing inspiration from other folksingers such as Leonard Cohen and Buffy Sainte Marie in addition to Cat Power and 90s feminist punk.
Later on "Thin", she sings, "Thin like the skin on a lottery ticket / Tried you on for a bit just to see if it's fitting / I forgot who I was." A song written about her old job cocktail waitressing at a strip club, she recalls "It's funny because it sounds like a folk song, but it's more about the disgusting feeling I would have when I would come home from that place. And I was just like, who am I? I am not this person, I'm just in a weird place in my life right now. I feel like everyone has done that. You try something different just to be someone else."
Messes deals with these sorts of internal anxieties: power struggles, friendships falling apart, even one song about a conflict with a landlord. "It's more about pain than anything," she says. "A lot of these songs are a cathartic release of overwhelming emotional stress. "On and Off For You," for example, deals with being gaslighted and controlled by a lover. "Putting in overtime to get my revenge on you," she sings. "When I look back on that time period I obsess about how I should have left or done better for myself or been a stronger woman. It's the emotional or mental overtime I think a lot of people endure."
She recorded the entire album with Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good To Me) throughout 2015. Thomas plays bass on most of the record, and a bit of guitar and drums. Drummer Ryan Clancy of Jamaican Queens and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. adds the bulk of the drums. Through intricate guitar work and warm, textured production, Messes finds her trying to make sense of life's ups and downs. "It's about emotional mess, not physical mess," Chura says. "The title track is about knowing that you are going to do something the wrong way, but you're doing it anyway because you want that experience. I've had to do a lot of things the wrong way in order to figure out how to live my life."