Haunted Painting is hard to pin down. With lyrics spanning a wide array of concepts but decidedly orbiting sociopolitical commentary, maybe the Sad13 project is a punk album. But then, pop-rock joins the scene on tracks like “Hysterical,” with a shouty chorus and chaotic production. What’s more, the song features notably PC music stylings with whining synth and fuzzy distortion. Other songs feel more sonically in-line with Sad13’s punkish lyrics, a groovy bassline followed by bursts of electric guitar and drums, but others depart the style almost completely. Remarkably, Haunted Painting doesn’t feel cluttered while it carries all these sounds. Instead, the album is gleefully chaotic while satisfyingly embarrassing maximalism.
Sadie Dupuis, the creative behind Sad13, makes her album’s messaging clear on its second song, “WTD.” With a nearly angry delivery and tone, the singer discusses climate change and billionaires: “Some of us are gonna die faster than the other guys,” she sings, calling out the injustice of climate change’s disproportionate impact on the poor. The track features some of Haunted Painting’s best lyrics, just as “Good Grief” features some of the project’s best production and instrumentals; the song shows off guitar, drums, and a playful style that reminds of groups such as Superorganism. “Ruby Wand” continues this playfulness to an almost campy extreme, a glittery backing of synth complimenting Sadie’s voice before an explosion of heavy guitar and drums. Unsurprisingly for the project, Sadie begins to depart the pop-rock stylings of much of the album towards its end; utilizing strings and wind instruments, the second to last track, “Take Care,” is noticeably less complex than other entries. But this moment of calm disappears when the closer, “Market Hotel,” kicks off. With bold guitar, drums, and vocals, the song is the most pop-punk on the album. It could feel detached from portions of the project, but Sadie’s lyrics and production define its connection, just as every song neatly fits in place through Sadi’s skillful guidance.
Haunted Painting is a fascinating project. With a bucket full of styles and piercing lyrics, the album is anarchic while pointed. Enjoying playfulness while taking on serious subjects, the project is also refreshingly carefree. Sadie’s maximalist tendencies are complimented by a contrasting makeshift-indie aesthetic. When distortion buzzes and sparkling synth dances, it’s easy to think of artists like Dorian Electra, but when Sadie’s vocals are delivered beside guitar and drums, the project suddenly makes you think of Mitski’s homemade, 90s-punk motif. Within this busy musical framework, the artist hones in on her lyrics, creating songs filled with poetry and starkly relevant commentary. Yes, Haunted Painting is chaotic, but that’s why it works so well.