Sad13's 'Haunted Painting' Makes Morbidity Sound Like Fun

BY Sarah ChodosPublished Sep 24, 2020

If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere where the air is getting cooler, and the leaves – and not the sky — are turning different shades of red, then Haunted Painting by Sad13 might seem appropriate for a playfully macabre seasonal soirée. The title "Ghost (of a Good Time)" says it all.

The music is whimsical even in its morbidity. This isn't slowcore or death metal, it's pop; not so much drowning sorrows in cheap whiskey as in a bowl of glowing green punch.

But this is, of course, only a superficial read of Haunted Painting. After her debut as Sad13, 2016's Slugger, Sadie Dupuis — also a founding member of Speedy Ortiz — experienced crippling personal grief that prohibited her from making music. She was inspired by Franz Von Stuck's painting of the dancer Saharet, which appeared ghost-like to her. Confronting both losses of those close to her and a world that was crumbling, channeling haunted art seemed appropriate.

The tunes are catchy but with weird, distorted and atonal textures. "Into the Catacombs" is a very apt title for the first track, which opens with ominous string instrumentation. The main riff of "With Baby" is reminiscent of the Ghostbusters theme song.

While having command of many instruments, and inviting many similarly talented friends on the album with her (including a eight-piece orchestra), there is also a plethora of synths. Dupuis describes Haunted Painting as "decidedly non-minimal" and, her own instrumental repertoire includes "toys, trash and ephemera."

While many albums start out catchy and then become more introspective, Haunted Painting loses some of its moroseness to become more pop-ish. "Market Hotel" has a catchy, major-key feel, shot through with distorted guitar.

Dupuis, whose professional music career began as part of touring choir in middle school, previously spent a stint at MIT before dedicating herself to music and poetry. Beyond her work as Sad13 and with Speedy Ortiz, she has also collaborated with Lizzo. It is clear that Dupuis is constantly looking for ways to expand the possibilities of what she can do, and this can be heard in her music. Morbid is a less apt description than memento mori: a reminder not to waste time.
(Wax Nine)

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