Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz) Talks Bluffing’s “Sheltered”

Speedy Ortiz's singer-guitarist hates summer but she loves this song. Let her count the ways.

Every summer, there’s that song — the song that defines those sunny days and balmy nights, the one you’ll forever associate with a specific time and place. This week, Talkhouse writers talk their song of the summer of 2014.
— the editors of the Talkhouse

Almost everything about the summer is fucked. Suntanning is fucked — I like my skin to remain at its natural shade of “pasty with vampiric undertones.” Swimming is fucked — a deeply ingrained fear of humidity, originating from when my grandfather called me “ragamuffin” every time my hair looked marginally curly, keeps me out of the pool if there’s even a remote chance of me seeing any person I know. Birthday? Fucked. My mom popped me out in July, so I grew up celebrating my “special day” without many (or any) friends. Not even summer lovin’ is up my alley; once flings progress to the handholding stage, they seem too futile and temporal to chase. (I once justified the dissolution of a two-week summer camp relationship by blaming the split on the boy’s newly acquired mohawk.)

So I don’t have the sunniest personality, metaphorically or literally. But I can get very down with summer bangerz. Most of my musical digestion in the hot season is dedicated to Top 40 and r&b; I like pop songs, whether they’re saccharine, twisted, simple, silly, repetitive, dark or vacant…. Actually, the more vacant they are, the better, and if a hooky song is dark and vacant (see: Tinashe’s “2 On”) I will listen to it exclusively. For days.

This summer, the thing I have been listening to exclusively for days is Bluffing. Though it presents as an early-Thingy-meets-earlier Raincoats guitar-rock outfit, NYC four-piece Bluffing is, by virtue of its mission statement, a pop songwriting project: no songs are longer than two minutes. In the course of a 10-song, quarter-of-an-hour album, Bluffing manage to sound saccharine, twisted, simple, silly, repetitive, dark and (less often) vacant — the whole thing is very fun and very hooky and very brilliant.

My poison of choice is “Sheltered,”  a slow(er) jam that basically checks off every item on my laundry list of devices I like in songs. We got your good ol’ vocal line that jumps from falsetto to higher falsetto. We got your full-band assault that kicks in out of nowhere after a quiet, contemplative first verse. And that full-band shit doesn’t relent. We got your dissonant guitar riff punctuating an all-oohs chorus, which runs right up against the verse. And the lyrics — these lyrics are like Evil Dead meets The Notebook. A song that opens with “Little girls come out and hold me down/I’m sacrificed among your offerings” and ends with “You’re sheltered, by the way”? Let me get a bite of that, please.

“Sheltered” sounds exuberant, even triumphant. But when you plunge into its deeper level, there’s a narrative full of helplessness, inertia, confusion. The song celebrates until it starts to wonder why it’s celebrating. It’s showcasing a hurt mingled with a melodic optimism, which is the best kind of hurt (and the most honest kind of optimism). Like getting a painful sunburn you know will fade into a really bitching tan. Not that I know what that’s like.


Sadie Dupuis is the guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter of rock band Speedy Ortiz. She’s also the producer & multi-instrumentalist behind pop project Sad13. Sadie heads the record label Wax Nine, has written for outlets including Spin, Nylon, and Playboy, and holds an MFA in poetry from UMass Amherst. Mouthguard, her first book, was published in 2018.

(Photo Credit: Jordan Edwards)