In covering Samia’s “Charm You” on Thursday night at Antone’s, Sabrina Teitelbaum — aka Blondshell — sang “I don’t wanna charm anyone this time.” Safe to say, she failed at not doing that.
Blondshell’s sold-out set charmed, connected and created community befitting a showcase for one of indie rock’s fastest-rising stars. The Blondshell project has a recorded age of barely a year, yet the songs Teitelbaum has released under it thus far — barely double figures in number — have struck an undeniable, resonant chord, and her self-titled debut under the Blondshell name is one of the year’s best. Fans on Thursday ate up every one of her melodic, largely bitter, ’90s-recalling gems as Teitelbaum and her band — guitarist Jeff Frantom, bassist Charlie Ellis and drummer Anna Crane — delivered the crunchy, anthemic goods in just 54 tight, satisfying minutes.
Onstage, the Manhattan-raised, L.A.-based Teitelbaum is what you would call a natural connector, feeling her music and acknowledging her adoring crowd without trying too hard. Raising her arms as her anthems soar, bending forward to less than a 90-degree angle to make a welcomed entrance into her front-row fans’ space and pose for their pictures, her presence is disarming even as her music is full of moody firepower.
Recalling the emotional spikiness of Liz Phair, but also sometimes showing shades of more recent indie stars like Courtney Barnett, she invests a lot in every word of her music, achieving a lyrical precision that impresses in person as well as it does on record. Take the fairly incredible “Sepsis,” an inspired likening of a terrible boyfriend to an infection and its resulting bodily reaction. The crafted humor and detailed precision of “He wears a front-facing cap/The sex is almost always bad” were an acidic smash to hear live (how many of even the most careful songwriters bother with “almost always”?), and the lifting, self-loathing chorus (“It should take a whole lot less/To turn me off, to turn me off”) was one of several rousing singalong moments.
Frequently sipping canned water between numbers, Teitelbaum is sober, and more compelling still from a lyrical standpoint was “Sober Together.” The authenticity of her personal experience seeped from the stage as she urged, “Call me, I wanna be there for you/But not in a way that lets you take me down with you.” The emotional, escalating ballad “Dangerous,” which closes the Blondshell album, may have been the night’s best showcase for just how pretty Teitelbaum’s voice can be. A fun surprise, and a nod to the music that gives Teitelbaum her base, came in the form of a rollicking cover of Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon,” a new addition to their repertoire.
With just a little arm-twisting required from the crowd, Blondshell came out for an encore, at which point Teitelbaum did some rhetorical crowd-sourcing: “Jeff wants to know what song we should play.” By process of elimination, the answer was obvious, and the crowd immediately let her know it: “‘SALAD!’ ” That bruising revenge fantasy, where she envisions murdering a man who abused her friend and got away with it in court, is a clear standout on Blondshell. It’s arguably the veil being pulled off all the simmering dissatisfaction and barely squelched rage that exists elsewhere in the Blondshell catalogue, and with another high-flying chorus for the crowd to join in on, there couldn’t have been a more appropriate culmination to the set.
Teitelbaum’s narrator in “Salad” doesn’t actually murder the guy; she doesn’t “know how to do that within the framework/’Cause we were never violent.” But Blondshell did murder Antone’s. And her talents suggest she’s got many more homicides ahead of her.