Laetitia Sadier’s Rooting for Love is a Transcendental Treatise on Healing

The Stereolab vocalist's fifth album verges on New Age frippery, but there’s an earnestness and even a level of chaos to the record that sets it apart as her best since her debut 14 years ago.

Music Reviews Laetitia Sadier
Laetitia Sadier’s Rooting for Love is a Transcendental Treatise on Healing

Over the last decade or so, the term “self-care” has quietly become one of the most egregious buzzwords in popular culture. Though originally coined as a medical term in the mid-century, the phrase was popularized in the 1960s by key women of color as a political term. Angela Davis and Ericka Huggins began meditating while sitting in jail cells; Audre Lorde wrote about self-care as an act of “self-preservation” and “political warfare.” To the disenfranchised and the radicalized, self-care is just as much a labor as direct action—it’s a restorative practice where we give ourselves the things we are systemically denied: education, time to reflect, healing from trauma and taking care of our bodies as an extension of our minds. Self-care may imply this is a solitary exercise, but only through communal care are we able to actualize any of this; after all, these are things denied to us on an individual level, so these resources are only made available when shared.

The synthesis of politics and spirituality have come to be seen as something distinctly feminine in our modern times, often because of the masculine, heterosexual bent Western leftism has taken in the new century. Spiritual growth is seen as superfluous, indulgent, and individualist. Change is only achieved through external disobedience. Laetitia Sadier has always rejected this notion. Born in 1968, she grew up in a conservative family and discovered the power of collective action in the late ‘80s after moving to London to pursue her music career—wedging her early life neatly between the rise of the New Left and the advent of third-wave feminism. Sadier recalls that even the men within her circle brushed against the riot grrrl movement.

Sadier is best known as a founding member of Stereolab, who have always been known for exploring Marxist, anti-capitalist ideas within their distinctive, easy-listening-inspired electro-pop. Her solo work offers a contrastive perspective on these ideas, which, while prevalent in nearly every Stereolab record, is often more declarative than it is nuanced. Sadier’s solo work hasn’t always been subtle either, though—her second album, Silencio, was often bogged down with obvious ironies, a bemused sort of cynicism most would call hand-folding today. But unlike so many Gen X artists, Sadier’s political consciousness has always been evolving, which is on fine display in her latest album, Rooting for Love.

Rooting for Love is similar sonically to much of her previous solo work—a stripped, dreamier iteration of what she achieved with Stereolab. It occasionally verges on New Age frippery (in a press release she described album opener “Who + What” as a “sonic balm to aid the evolution of Earth’s traumatized civilizations”), but there’s an earnestness and even a level of chaos to the record that sets it apart as her best since her debut, The Trip. “Don’t Forget You’re Mine” leads with a gentle guitar strum and a simple synthetic beat, a defeated sigh, then gradually picks up the energy after the first verse, adding in an energetic riff, excited drums, and an occasional violin flourish, all of which center and ground the track as an encouraging pick-me-up. It functions as a rallying cry to listeners, friends, and Sadier herself: “I shake you and impair you to shake out your cold arrogance again,” she says, tough love from someone who is no stranger to disempowerment.

“Une Autre Attente,” which roughly translates to “another’s expectation,” leans on Sadier’s love of 60s groove, a kooky tune about merging and nurturing “le corps et l’esprit,” the body and the spirit, a rocky path of self-actualization that is not promised when we’re born. You’ll find sincere musings on transcendental ideas like these throughout the record: On “Cloud 9,” over xylophonic synth that wouldn’t be out of place on Suzanne Ciani’s Seven Waves, she asks “how can you be seen and known and loved / when you have your armor on?” It’s easy to dismiss intuitive, spiritual statements like Sadier’s as crunchy and reductive, but her philosophies exist well within the boundaries of the material conditions that led to personal unhealth. “This armor is keeping you from the gifts I’ve given you,” she says, in her clearest vocal tone on the album, “I’m not fucking around / You’re halfway dead.” Sadier embodies this Goddess role not to condescend, but to share a vital warning—that neglecting what our souls and bodies are crying out for is as good as a preemptive demise.

Austin Jones is a writer and perfume enthusiast. His unfiltered thoughts are available for free on Twitter @belfryfire.

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