Sabrina Teitelbaum’s debut is as skillfully angsty as we could have hoped
The pandemic records just keep coming, but when they’re this good we can’t complain. Blondshell’s self-titled debut isn’t strictly a lockdown album, but it’s certainly something born out of isolation; a touch-starved, searingly desperate confession of a debut that combines skillful songwriting with a freewheeling vulnerability. Blondshell can’t wait to tell you her secrets – as long as you promise you’ll stick around afterwards.
Blondshell has been a highly anticipated debut album, the work of LA singer songwriter Sabrina Teitelbaum. Forged in lockdown, her stage persona is a veritable tour of the female emotional experience, deceptively unfiltered and, in reality, incredibly precise. Blondshell’s songwriting is spectacular – sharp, often funny, full of punchlines that hit perfectly and yet sit uncomfortably. “It should take a whole lot less to turn me off,” she says in ‘Sepsis’. “I think my kink is when you tell me that you think I’m pretty,” she sings in ‘Kiss City’.
Both tracks explore the terminal state of Blondshell’s love life, from two different perspectives. In ‘Kiss City’ she spills her intimate fantasies freely, cheerfully admitting that no sex is better than the knowledge that someone wants her. In ‘Sepsis’, she and her therapist both know that loving this way is slowly killing her. “I think I believe in getting saved/Not by Jesus’ validation but by some dude’s gaze,” she confesses.
The lyrics feel intensely personal, but Blondshell is interested in the wider experience of being a woman in your early twenties. In the album’s opener, ‘Veronica Mars’, she explores how her favourite childhood show shaped the adult she became and the treatment she came to expect from men (“Logan’s a dick, I’m learning that’s hot”). ‘Sober Together’ tackles the symbiotic relationship between young adult friendships and intoxication. Blondshell wonders at what point an inability to stop taking it too far constitutes addiction. “I wanna be there for you/But not in a way that lets you take me down with you,” she sings over an instrumental more careful and restrained than the crashing, crunchy indie rock across most of the album.
Perhaps the album’s saddest moment comes in ‘Salad’, when Blondshell watches a friend go through something life-altering at the hands of an older man with a family. A particularly affecting scene sees him laughing in the parking lot with his lawyer, as Blondshell struggles to figure out where to channel her rage. “We were never violent,” she shouts as the track builds towards an emotional and vaguely threatening finale.
There’s something undeniably cinematic in this world of young people leaning on each other and struggling to get by, pursuing toxic relationships and self-medicating. Blondshell references it in ‘Joiner’, an infectious Britpop ode to teenage dirtbag culture. “Think you watched way too much HBO growing up,” she sings. It’s no wonder Gen-Z have warmed to her so quickly. The kids aren’t alright, but at least they have good songs to play.