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Lisa Heller – SADIE Review

Cursing and reflecting her way through a four-track EP, Lisa Heller charts the worries and concerns of herself and her friends on SADIE. Concerns of what, in particular, are never quite there. This is the broadness of the genre at its most secure and safely patterned. Where the acoustic melodies of the opening track, a lowercase brown paper bag can fit an aesthetic instead of trying for its own. Heller fits a groove and follows through that Phoebe Bridgers-championed modern turn for the indie folk genre. Stiff electronics underlining Heller’s opening track do little to change that fact. Underwhelming tracks soon follow, and at a time when this sub-genre is booming, it makes for quite the shock. 

Gifted with a strong voice, Heller has no trouble showcasing her vocal talent through these four tracks. The beat around it though is a refreshing problem, a shallow experience that chases popularity instead of drawing it close. Fair play, those genre takings are the hot and rising topic, but the empty acoustics of you were the worst part of my life and the hopeful relatability of the song feels intentionally marketable rather than something to connect with sincerely. Feeling without someone, feeling with someone, all the usual tropes of the genre laid out flat and bare and obviously so. The tinnier beats and electric fusion under these tracks are lifeless and despite the consistent sway from Heller’s vocals, there is little here that charms the soul or tricks the mind. 

Static moments are a shock to the system though. SADIE hits out at everything possible to present some hopeful facets of touching and empathetic topics. Third track hollow is Heller’s best shot at that. Its shimmering, stinted mixing brings through a surprisingly strong draw and hints at what the artist is aiming for. Fair play, it works here, but it does not for three other tracks. Self-titled SADIE follows up that Taylor Swift-style B-Side with little more than a shrug of the shoulders to signal the end of an EP that never finds its pace or place. Heller does not yet seem to have fashioned out an identity of her own to serve her through a particularly bloodthirsty and cutthroat genre. There is no room for half-heartedness, and although that may not be the case for Heller’s intent, it is what comes through with her tracks.  

Thankfully there are flickers of what Heller hopes to bring, especially with hollow, a finely-tuned song that represents the troubles of a weak bunch. An album where lyrics speak of empty promises and Heller delivers just the same. Emotive and hoping to connect with its twee indie style, there is a flatness to SADIE that can never quite shake free from itself. Weak and wobbly hooks, tired and conforming instrumentals that follow the step-by-step guide to sad hours indie music to be played and screenshot for Spotify playlists to fit an aesthetic. Self-titled EP ender SADIE is the worst of a stagnant bunch. A track where instead of powerful curses, the expletives and language are nothing more than empty diatribes for a listener to fill with their own experience than something for the listener to connect with and respond to.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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