Album Review: Sadurn - Radiator

State College, Pennsylvania is a little less than 200 miles west of Philadelphia. It takes three hours to travel between the two cities by car, and “State College” is referenced, by name, twice within the first side of Radiator, the debut full-length LP from the Philadelphia-based band Sadurn.

I’ll go out to State College, ‘cause I am still tangled up” the band’s singer and lyricist Genevieve DeGroot explains near the end of the album’s first half, in the song “Lunch.” “And you said it makes you nervous—well I think that’s fair enough.”

“State College,” within the way it is written into the lyrics of two songs, both is and is not what I thought it would be. Through my initial listens to Radiator, and as someone who is not from the East Coast, or at least all that well versed in its geography, there was an ambiguity to it—like it was a somewhat generic description of a place, rather than a type of proper name for a state university. 

And it both is, and is not, that. 

State College, per its Wikipedia, is a municipality in Pennsylvania and the location of Penn State University’s main campus. 

Maybe it was wrong to meet you out in State College like we were still together—like I was your only option,” DeGroot sings tenderly, but with great regret on Radiator’s stunning opening track, “Snake.” “But I’m not, and you know that I’m not as true as I thought. But I’d still drive for several hours on a dime if you dropped it.”

“State College” is referenced twice within a span of 15 minutes, and out of all the words used throughout and the places mentioned across the album’s nine tracks, “longing” is not one of them. However, the feeling, or the sensation of longing, often visceral, is built into the foundation of nearly every song.


As someone who spends a large portion of my free time not only writing about music, but also reading about music—my attempts at keeping up with artists I’ve followed for a while, and researching new bands or performers to give a listen to for either analytical purposes or, as rare as it is, personal enjoyment—enough time has passed that I am unable to remember how, exactly, I was introduced to Sadurn. 

Perhaps it was a “new music” news brief on Stereogum when Radiator was announced in February, and “Snake” was issued as the first of three advance singles leading up to the album’s arrival. Or, perhaps it was through members of the closely-knit music community in Philadelphia whom I follow on Twitter—Tom Morris from Swim Camp, Greg Mendez, and Shannen Moser, who regularly share information about other artists from the area and promote each other’s endeavors. 

And there are, of course, times when the recommendation, or suggestion from a trustworthy source doesn’t always work out—just because a friend, or someone I follow on social media likes something, or it received high marks from a music news website, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to like it too, or that I will find something to enjoy about it—though I am always grateful when I do.

Right away—like literally within the first few, hushed moments of “Snake,” I was drawn to Sadurn by the subtle, bleak humor of the project’s name, and immediately transfixed by the song’s meticulous slow burn—the way it begins with DeGroot’s delicate voice barely rising above a whisper, floating gently above hesitant and quiet guitar strums, before the rest of the instrumentation comes shuffling in—circling in a kind of pensive holding pattern full of tension that is, eventually, given permission to be released as a means of punctuating the final few lines of each verse. 

Sadurn, as a project, is relatively new—launched initially as a solo output for DeGroot, the first release under the moniker was the Friends With Your Friends EP from 2017. They followed that up with two additional EPs in 2019; by then, Sadurn, as a project, was beginning the slow shift from being less of solo output, and more of a “band.” DeGroot had started working with guitarist Jon Cox, and in the press materials for Radiator, DeGroot explained that in early 2020, the band was rounded out by friends Amelia Swain on drums, and Tabitha Ahnert on bass—both of whom apparently had just recently taken up their respective instruments. 

The momentum the full-band iteration of Sadurn entered into 2020 with was, as one might anticipate, temporarily put on hold after the onset of the pandemic, but eventually, the four-piece figured out a way to safely begin working on the record—holing themselves up in a makeshift studio created in an Airbnb in the Poconos, with the two-week sessions produced by Heather Jones of the group Ther, with whom DeGroot had shared a split EP with the previous year. 

Musically, Radiator finds DeGroot leaning more into arrangements that are inclusive of the newly formed full band, and it is perhaps in these moments when the album is most successful, or at least at its the most compelling. These robust tracks are often juxtaposed with more skeletally assembled songs, creating a harkening back to the project's earlier iterations. And it is DeGroot’s phrase turns throughout—unflinching in their honest, intensely personal observations, and the way they are often breathlessly and urgently delivered within the songs, that not only makes Radiator such an impressive debut from a relatively new band, but also such a captivating, thoughtful, and beautiful record from start to finish.


In the spring, while sitting down to write a piece about the band Bats, and their most recent effort, Blue Cabinet, I found I needed to give myself time to reflect on the idea of “indie” music as not just a catch-all genre or description for a band that is not on a major label, but rather as a sound, or aesthetic—and in my case, there was a particular sound that I was looking for, and often still am. 

Sadurn falls into that aesthetic for most Radiator—a place where there’s a little bit of a very somber Western twang merging with both the guitar-focused, slightly ramshackle “indie” sound, and the hushed, gentle nature of idiosyncratic folk music. And throughout the album, DeGroot and the band oversee a kind of give and take across those three elements, spending time in the places where two of them, or even all three, overlap.

The noticeable contrast between Sadurn’s dynamics can be particularly impressive at times, especially on the album’s first side—the sequence of the powerful “Snake,” the nearly whispered “Moses Kill,” and the tumbling, pensive “Golden Arm” is a triple threat that keeps the listener enthralled as the record moves toward the halfway point. And there are no “bad” songs or even inessential songs on Radiator, but within the shift in styles, the album’s pacing as a whole can be a little uneven, and even a little slow once it gets into its second half. 

The album's energy isn’t exactly picked back up as it heads into the final two songs, but both the titular track, and the album closer “Icepick,” are among the second side’s finest. Both of them plod along at a deliberately slowed pace—“Radiator” moves to the gentle, measured rhythm of a brushed snare hit, while “Icepick” is one of the few that is held together by a chintzy, antiquated sounding drum machine and a dusty, subtle, and warm synthesizer drone. 

And in both songs, as is the case with all of the most impactful moments throughout Radiator, it is DeGroot’s lyricism, and the kind of contemplative honesty they deliver those lyrics with that makes this such a fascinating listen. 

Throughout Radiator, there is a terrible, yet an unmistakably human sense of longing—a longing, or desire for what once was and is no longer, or for what might, or could be. And the way this longing, among other things, like stark personal and emotional reflection, is depicted, there is an evocative, literate quality to the way DeGroot can craft extraordinarily vivid narratives.

There is no chorus in “Radiator”—there isn’t a chorus in many of these songs, which is one of the songwriting elements that makes them so interesting. Occasionally, some elements are returned to, or phrases sung in a similar melody, falling into a specific place in the way the lyrics unfold, but “Radiator” is like a beautifully fragmented short story, and DeGroot can build an entire world and develop themselves as the conflicted protagonist.

Hey I know an hour ago I said I’d come and get you,” they begin. “Well, actually I think I need this hour to myself.” The longing, then, comes within the following few lines—“I’m stepping on what I’ve been covering up. When I think about you, it is like a knife in my gut. Maybe I should tell you what.”

And musically, a gentle, sweeping, melancholic twang underscores “Radiator,” as the story continues. “And you called to tell me that you had a terrible day—so I’ll come and pick you up outside of the Rite Aid, with the lamplight on your face, and you know I like you exactly that way.”

Maybe I am frightened of what happens if I start saying what I have been thinking,” DeGroot concludes hesitantly near the song’s finale. “Maybe I don’t want to tell you what, or maybe nobody’s certain about these things.”


A song’s lyrics, and in tandem, the song’s meaning, regardless of if the words are printed in an album’s liner notes, or easily accessible online—can still be interpreted by different listeners in myriad ways. And the practice of mishearing, or misunderstanding words within a song is a relatively common one—at times, the resulting misunderstanding is unintentionally funny.

The lyric, delivered in the second verse of the song “Special Powers,” which closes out Radiator’s first side, is “‘Cause after work, I’m fucking tired. I just want to go back to bed and spend the next day inside.”

The first time I heard “Special Powers” was during my initial run through Radiator as a whole, after roughly three months of anticipation—but listening, as I often do to new releases on a Friday morning, through one AirPod while easing into my morning at work. And perhaps it is because my hearing is, famously not what it used to be; or because I was literally and figuratively half-listening while focusing on the early morning duties of my job; or perhaps it is because of the way DeGroot delivers the line—specifically the way they say the word “inside.” They don’t pull away from the microphone exactly, but the start of the word gets lost just a little bit way the music is starting to build up behind them, but on the morning Radiator was released, and in hearing “Special Powers” for the first time, I was certain the line was, “‘Cause after work, I’m fucking tired. I just want to go back to bed and spend the next day sad.”

And, in thinking that was the line, I said to myself, “I fucking feel that.”

One could make a strong case that the implications of spending the following day inside, and spending the next day, as I had misunderstood, “sad” are similar in some regard. My original misinterpretation of the lyrics to “Special Powers” doesn’t change the meaning of the song, or how I feel about the song at all—arriving at the album’s halfway point, it has an anthemic, exuberant quality to its structure that is often not present in the other eight tunes on Radiator. Musically built to be powerful and surprisingly infectious, the song’s arranging does a stellar job of not hiding DeGroot’s self-effacing lyricism, but of covering it up just enough so that, through additional, and more thoughtful listens, the urgency to the longing is very apparent.

I’m trying to distract myself ‘cause I’m getting tired of crying my eyes out,” they sing in the song’s opening line before taking a short pause. “Over you and over nothing.”

“Special Powers,” like so many songs on this album, is in a state of continuous tumbling through its lyrics without ever returning to a chorus of any kind—however within the arranging here, there is a slow simmer then intentional rise to a moment of buoyancy that, at least musically speaking, serves as shout-along kind of refrain, with DeGroot’s confession, “I’m still having dreams about you at night.”

As the song’s narrative continues, there is a bleakness to its admissions, yes, but within that, there is also one of the signs of self-acceptance that are quietly spread throughout Radiator, indicative of just how difficult something like that is. “I light a candle in the shower, try to tap into my special power,” DeGroot muses in the song’s second half. “I end up on my knees with water all around me—so it’s okay what I’m feeling. It’s alright if I’m crying.”


I’m uncertain how many times I had listened to the song “Golden Arm,” the third track on Radiator, and the second of the three advance singles released before the full album arrived at the beginning of May, before the song’s opening line really hit me.

I wish I understood a hundred times the gnawing in my heart,” DeGroot sings quietly over the gentlest of arrangements—slightly twangy, slightly mournful guitar strums and delicately brushed snare hits, all slowly creeping along underneath “Golden Arm”’s poetically fragmented structure. 

There’s a beautiful wistfulness to it all—moving in slow motion like a bittersweet daydream. And, like so much of Radiator, it’s the longing written into the lyrics that rise to the surface. The imagery of a feeling gnawing at a heart, alone, is one of the most memorable phrase turns found on the entire record, but it is a song that, as it musically tumbles along, DeGroot’s emotions conflictingly tumble as well. “Be honest darling, do you think of me and all this stupid stuff?,” they ask, midway through. “It’s been a few days since I heard from you—so I do I feel the love? 

That question, and the questions that linger over the sense of longing eventually see a glimmer of resolve in the close track, “Icepick,” a song that, in looking at the arc that takes place across Radiator, is the inverse of the album’s impressive opening track, “Snake.”

I would never describe Sadurn as a raucous sounding group—the band often nervously shifts between that mournful, western-inspired twang, and an esoteric, folksy, acoustic sound. Still, when they push themselves in the direction of a sloppy, borderline lo-fi-sounding indie rock band, it results in some of the finest tunes of this set. And I am often hesitant to compare bands, or artist, to other bands or artists that are similar, simply because even if the comparison is warranted, I have come to a place in the way I listen to music, and think about music, that I want artists to be able to stand on their own. 

And even if I am remiss to draw comparisons, or name drop, when Sadurn does steer themselves into a slightly more robust, indie rock sound, I was pleasantly surprised to hear hints of Elizabeth Powell’s long-running Land of Talk project , and even a little bit of the group Cartalk, in way tunes like “Special Powers,” and “Snake” unfold. Specifically with “Snake,” a song that musically smolders brightly through a sense of tension and release. As the opening track, it doesn’t exactly set the tone for the rest of the album that follows, but it’s a thoughtful choice to have released it as the first single in promotion of Radiator, and it is a very attentive track one, side one. 

The tumultuous feelings and interpersonal struggles depicted throughout Radiator make their first appearance on “Snake,” and DeGroot’s sprawling opening line is something to behold in terms of its honesty and literacy. “Honey, I was wrong,” they begin. “I had to walk down to turn—get a good look at my ways, and hell, maybe I’ve learned something from wringing out my shame. I had to lay down with her if just to see it was the same thing that got me before.”

The first four words are then contrasted with the beginning of the song’s second verse though, “Honey, I was right,” then later on, in the breathlessly delivered final moments of reflection, “Honey, you were kind to tell me that it’s alright—I know my fault is that I speak every damn thought in my mind,” DeGroot explains. “But I want you to know that I’ll be holding that line and believe in all your mercy, and in the weight of the tide as it is pulling you back towards me—you know I that I am always yours if you’ll still have me.”


Radiator comes to an end with an afterward of sorts—a minute-long, untitled track that plays the slow, tinny drum machine beat from “Icepick” in reverse. It is, of course, “Icepick” which serves as an epilogue to the album’s narrative and the place where DeGroot finds as much resolution as they can.

The album, as a whole, is unabashedly personal in what it reflects, but “Icepick,” the third and final single released in advance, is perhaps the most intimate in the story it tells. There is still the heavy sense of longing surging throughout Radiator, but here, DeGroot comes the closest yet to the kind of intimacy—platonic and/or romantic, that they have been looking for. “You and I are good friends, sometimes we’re in love,” they sing at the start of the song’s second verse. “And it feels like nothing I’m ever gonna find again.” Then, reflecting on it again a few lines later, they sing, “It feels really important, like I never wanna lose it.”

Radiator is far from being a hopeless record—it is simply honest, and within that honesty, comes the frustrating emotions that are difficult to sort through, and often a lack of optimism about the immediate future. There are welcome flickers of hope, though, as the album winds down—like in the titular track, where DeGroot asks, “Can’t I just believe in all the goodness that I’ve seen—like how you spread your light around me?,” and in the final moments of “Icepick,” which, even within the difficulties of a connection with another person, are the most hopeful—“Your mind is like a fishnet, and mine is like an icepick,” they sing. “Sometimes it’s not enough and sometimes I think it’s perfect. And I get so messed up ‘cause I don’t know if it’s working. I’m standing by the window—can’t wait to let the light in.”

Radiator is a beautiful, gentle statement, and even in the moments when it loses a bit of its pacing, is still a fascinating debut full-length in the blending of its dynamics, and the humanistic and subtly devastating lyricism found within. Running a little over a half-hour in length, it doesn’t risk overstaying its welcome and is the kind of record that is exceptionally welcoming to repeated listens where Sadurn’s thoughtful nature continues to reveal itself each time you return. 

Radiator is out now on vinyl and cassette via Run For Cover.