Sasha and the Valentines: "So You Think You Found Love?"

Album Cover by JB Bergin

Have you ever listened to an album that captures the feeling of a first kiss?

Sasha and the Valentines, a five-piece band from Austin, have just released their debut album So You Think You Found Love? via Oof Records. And yes, I would say this record certainly captures that first kiss feeling.

Sasha and the Valentines comprises Sarah Addi (vocals), JB (bass), Billy (drums), Tim (percussion), and Alex (guitar). The band formed after playing music together in other capacities and projects, and eventually, they moved from Massachusetts to Austin together to seriously pursue music. “Sasha” is a persona for Addi, an amalgamation of everybody’s names, but the band stresses that Sasha can also be a persona for the whole band, or even the audience.

Photo by JB Bergin

So You Think You Found Love? is a lush debut. It’s nostalgic, inviting, and leans heavily into dreamy yet danceable 80s synth sounds. Current stars of the genre like Beach House and Tennis come to mind when listening, although we could also trace the roots back to the surf tunes and girl groups of the 1960s. This debut is also all about love.

It’s a bit more than a collection of love songs, though. This album is conceptual, and when listened to straight through, it tells a story, starting high at love and ending at love lost. It nods at romantic comedies; there’s an interlude called “Commercial Break” where a distorted voice advertises a “program” by Sasha and the Valentines that will help you find love “tonight,” after which the word “tonight” is repeated ominously until fading out. The distortion and the word choice–like “program,” specifically–almost give a dystopian edge, until you remember that Tinder already exists. And then, well, Sasha and the Valentines move on to their next song: “Tinder.”

So You Think You Found Love? takes sadness and turns it into something that shimmers.

"I've always loved the drama of artists like Blondie, ABBA, Madonna – those power songs of shamelessly expressing emotions, almost kitschy, but also very serious and genuine," Addi told the Austin Chronicle. "Relationships are one of those tropes that'll never go out of style, because it happens over and over again. No one's going to stop writing love songs."

There are songs that feel like they would be at home on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. There are songs that send you into a liminal dreamspace, and then, there are songs that just straight-up feel like an 80s prom dance anthem. Still, though, the sound is impressively cohesive throughout, as is the songwriting, which is often impressionistic and full of glimpses of stories. “Tears for Mars,” for example, is an abstract tune with the most killer first lines: “Doesn’t anyone remember? We gave Mars all our tears.” The song captures the transience of a relationship ending, that weird time when it feels both over and not-yet-over. “We only last for so long/Until we disappear,” sings Addi.

Photo by JB Bergin

So You Think You Found Love? takes sadness and turns it into something that shimmers. Sometimes with a bittersweet twist. In this way, I see So You Think Found Love? as a beautiful dance record and where the influences of artists like Robyn and ABBA are apparent. “Cry All The Time,” for example, is an upbeat and warm song, even as Addi sings, “We had problems/ We couldn’t solve them/ So cry all the time.” Another, “Some Time,” kicks off with short, punchy chords and catchy melodies. “So you try your best, but you’ll probably hurt him again,” sings Addi in the hook.

Maybe you’re looking for a song about yearning? That’s there, in the layered and danceable “Don’t You Love Me.” Or maybe a song that declares love? Listen to “Witches,” a dreamy listen that highlights Addi’s strong yet sweet vocals, where bright guitar licks and harmonies echo as the synths wash over. A breakup song? That’s there too, and it’s one of my favorites, “Angel.” “Used to call me angel/ Maybe I was on your side/ But no, never wanted heaven,” sings Addi.

So You Think You Found Love? is sad, fun, and warm. It’s full of desire and introspection. It sounds like space, prom, the 80s, first kisses, dance parties with best friends, goodbyes, and the beach all at once, and that’s the kind of record I want to listen to over and over.