Coming-of-age stories don’t always end with a last dance at the high school prom. More often than not, they carry on into college and beyond for what sometimes feels like trial by fire when adjusting to the real world. For LA-based indie rock musician Sabrina Teitelbaum, who goes by Blondshell, the unsure reality of 20-somethings is captured vividly on one of the most self-assured debuts this year, Blondshell.
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The self-titled album, clocking in at a sweet spot of nine songs and releasing ahead of upcoming tour and festival dates near LA, comes off as surprisingly personal. Even if the songwriting concerns specific individuals Teitelbaum spent time with, the open and often regretful lookbacks on a fast life spent blacking out at parties and battling addictions rings true for many young people.
Appropriately starting from the beginning, “Veronica Mars” acts as a reference to the 2000s TV show starring Kristen Bell and a frame of reference for where pop culture was when Teitelbaum was growing up. Similarly, the chorus references The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” but is nowhere near a direct copy or even a winking homage. The zip tie guitar should be enough incentive for how holistic Teitelbaum is musically, following her own lane without being restricted to a one-note artist.
“Kiss City,” on the other hand, finds Teitelbaum dazed in admiration and appreciating the little things in romance. Lines like “I think my kink is when you tell me that I’m pretty” shows how the smallest acts of intimacy make the difference, something she proves as the song’s finer details come up through elements like the subtle sound of a water droplet adding ambiance or the reverberating guitar.
It’s not surprising “Olympus” is the most popular track on the album thus far, being relatable and varied in instrumentation. Thanks to a skeletal guitar and elephant-heavy drums, the indie rock cut is better described as a translation of what grunge music might sound like today. But the standout demonstration of Teitelbaum’s talents is “Sober Together.”
The musical analog to reaching out a hand to help another, “Sober Together,” asks how close is too close before you’re sucked into the problem? Solely from her voice, the longing couldn’t be clearer while glazed chords strum underneath a defeated chorus. Though the question is left unanswered, it’s still one of the album’s emotionally complex, capturing the moral grays when singing the blues of drug addiction.
The second to last song, “Tarmac,” illustrates the paradoxical conundrum when friends make you feel alone. By the start, the track becomes a slower cut with its drowned-out guitar until the drums crack open a spiraling sense of self at the core, positioning “Tarmac” as another rock anthem rolling in the trenches of its woes.
Blondshell, though tight and compact for an album, doesn’t seek to resolve. “I wasn’t intending to write an album as much as I was just trying to get relief from an intense and difficult time in my life,” said Teitelbaum on the recording process. “My biggest hope is that people can see the album for what it is: there’s no happy ending or ‘message’; it’s just a window into what it’s like when you’re trying to figure out who you are and what you want.” Much like growing up, there’s not always a clear character arc for when things go good or bad. But the simple acknowledgment of what’s happened, good or bad, is enough to characterize Blondshell as an act with something to say that resonates for people’s healing.
Words: David Sosa
Blondshell by Blondshell is out on all streaming services. Tickets to her tour dates, including a LA stop at The Roxy on Aug. 2, along with a festival date at BLEACHED in San Diego Aug. 4-5, are available now. For more on future music, follow her on Instagram and her website.
Blondshell Live Dates
05/11 – The Great Escape Festival – Brighton, UK
05/12 – The Great Escape Festival % – Brighton, UK
05/13 – Point Éphémère ^ – Paris, France
05/14 – Le Grand Mix ^ – Tourcoing, France
05/15 – Helios37 ^ – Cologne, Germany
05/17 – Privatclub ^ – Berlin, Germany
05/18 – Molotow SkyBar ^ – Hamburg, Germany
05/19 – London Calling Festival – Amsterdam, Netherlands
05/20 – Botanique – Brussels, Belgium
05/24 – Moth Club ~ London, UK
05/25 – YES ^ – Manchester, UK
05/26 – The Louisiana & – Bristol, UK
05/27 – Wide Awake Festival – London, UK
05/30 – Primavera Festival – Barcelona, Spain
06/6 – Primavera Festival – Madrid, Spain
06/9 – Primavera Festival – Porto, Portugal
07/7 – Polaris Hall – Portland, OR *
07/8 – Madam Lous – Seattle, WA *
07/11 – 7th Street – Minneapolis, MN *
07/12 – Schubas – Chicago, IL *
07/14 – The Garrison – Toronto, ON *
07/15 – Bar Le Ritz PDB – Montreal, QC *
07/16 – Middle East Upstairs – Boston, MA *
07/19 – Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY *
07/21 – PhilaMOCA – Philadelphia, PA *
07/22 – DC9 – Washington, DC *
07/24 – Third Man – Nashville, TN *
07/25 – Aisle 5 – Atlanta, GA *
07/27 – Antone’s – Austin, TX *
07/28 – White Oak (Upstairs) – Houston, TX *
07/29 – Club Dada – Dallas, TX *
08/1 – Valley Bar – Phoenix, AZ *
08/2 – The Roxy – Los Angeles, CA *
08/4 – Cafe Du Nord – San Francisco, CA *
08/4-5 – Bleached Festival – San Diego, CA
11/2-4 – Iceland Airwaves – Reykjavik, Iceland
% with The Pretenders
* Hello Mary support
^ Girl & Girl support
~ Platonica Erotica support
& Oslo Twins support