Album Auto-naylsis: DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ’s ‘Bewitched!’

Written by Travis Shosa

Taking inspiration from ’90s witch sitcoms and the pop music of the same era, DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ has emerged as a prominent cult act in outsider house music since 2017’s Makin’ Magik. Leaning into foggy amalgamations of memories, her music doesn’t simply regurgitate nostalgia, but contextualizes it. Recollections pleasant—or otherwise—are dressed in euphoric sheen, forming compositions just as likely to make you fondly reminisce as dance. We asked Sabrina to break down last year’s Bewitched! track-by-track.

1. “Under Your Spell”

DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ: “I think peoples who liked Next To Me and didn’t care for Spirit or Transcendence would be more pleased with this as an opener, so straight to the top it went! Kinda what my brain sounds like when falling asleep and thinking about this song. Kinda combines all my favorite sounds, 90’s/00’s R&B, 90’s country, 80’s rock/pop, soul, rap, etc. Love Phil C type drum fills and wanted that vibe for the coda, somewhere between a rock song and… something else?”

2. “A Part Of Me”

DSTTDJ: “This had been lying around since September (the 1st) 2021, didn’t have time to get it done but the bulk of it was arranged. Slo-fi house, again a blend of my favorite sounds of the 80’s, 90’s, soul, country, rap, etc. desperation. makes me cry. You’re so much a part of me, when you left you took a part of me with you…”

3. “You Never Know”

DSTTDJ: “Started Feb 2021, was originally going to be for the compilation I eventually used Try Not To Be Afraid for. Kinda just sat there for a year and a half (whoopsie!) and eventually got finished and arranged and… “because you never knooooooow”. Wanted each chorus to grow stronger and more powerful than the last [conceptually] but not really that noticeably, which was challenging-ish.”

4. “I Should Have Tried”

DSTTDJ: “regretful. makes me cry. there’s nothing sadder than the death of an ideal. i know i made mistakes, i know i lied… and i cried, and i’m not the crying kind (no tears)… and i know that i should have tried. 00’s pop song that you wake up with in your dream echoes but never existed? i think i recorded a x2 speed keyboard guitar (digital love, as if that’s never been done!) but it -ehhhhhh- so only a trace remains!”

5. “You Always Loved Me”

DSTTDJ: “Originally made from a dialog part that was going to be on Beautiful, All Alone but was too magical it needed its own place in the world. “yeah?”. makes me cry. 90’s pop mid-tempo ballad. Replay was a title consideration at one point. Lots of organic piano and parts, added two bass notes to the middle-8 even after the album was completed [this is where the facepalm emoj goes]. more regrets.”

6. “Lifeline”

DSTTDJ: “Who are you now? You know who you are? A groove that swells to a (slo-fi) stomp, but not really house. Really wanted the early auto-tune sound of the late 90’s (miss ya!) on the concluding hooks. “My lifeline, my sunshine”. Sometimes I put the therapy (that I use) right in the songs.”

7. “I Wish You Were Mine”

DSTTDJ: “90’s kinda pop ballad and regrets. Some of those Starting To Fall-style e-piano licks. Weaves in and out and keeps the bassline on the high frets until later. “I can’t lie, I wish you were mine”. Sax over and out.”

8. “Matter Of Course”

DSTTDJ: “An attempt to do a song like when they do throwback late 80’s/early 90’s rock songs now, not an actual throwback late 80’s/early 90’s rock song.. Lyrically, each chorus intentionally changes the perspective. more regrets. Production was meant to sound like when they (the famous people) pro-tools a rock song?”

9. “I Wish For That”

DSTTDJ: “Late 90’s/early 00’s garage/two-step. Sabrina vocals. Originally a demo (instrumental) for Th’ ’75 and was considered for their album, but eventually it came back home. Lyrics written and recorded and arranged for Bewitched. Vocal edits (with the bendy autotune) like Artful and MJ Cole grooves. Wanted to find a use for that simulated crowd on the outro.”

10. “Call You”

DSTTDJ: “Demo first used in Space 4 Space mix, country/soul/house groove, wanted the middle coda to be a soft rock beat instead of house. “run and tell ya mama ’bout THAT!” Didn’t use a phone sound effect THIS time(!) and also, Spooky’s House Of Jumpscares did nothing on Room 666. A little hint of Beautiful, All Alone foreshadowing.”

11. “The High Road”

DSTTDJ: “Almost very nearly cut this from the album as I couldn’t figure out how to sequence the lighter tone of the track, but kinda fell into place after I moved it from between Deeper and Beautiful. A sister song to Tonight, Let’s Focus On The Future (which was already a bit of a sister track to Goodbye). Wanted the death wall of acid to build gradually a slightly stupid amount.”

12. “Deeper”

DSTTDJ: “A bunch of vocals I wanted to give a Euphoric Rock/Euphoric House/Countryto-Tune vibe to. Mixed during one of the hottest days I’ve ever suffered through (but not THE hottest). Various AOR/MOR/AC parts blended together in a.. blending-type thingie. Used the guitar parts leftover from Matter Of Course that weren’t used in Matter Of Course. The later 00’s/early ’10s millennial whoop was given a do-over, like on It’s Just A Natural Thing… see, it can work! dorian + fade 4eva.”

13. “Beautiful, All Alone”

DSTTDJ: “Originally started October 2021 as part of my personal yearly What Else Should I Believe? sister song contest (Charmed Life was a fellow contestant). country/new wave/slow-fi house. The title was kinda like a bunch of my other titles so it had a continuity about it. 100+ tracks of sounds I think? (one of those). “If I ever change… you’re the first person I’m calling”.  Affirmations delivered by a speecher witch from the other realm (they’re printed inside the cassette fold as an easter egg if you really must read them). “One day, you’re gonna wake up, and you’re gonna be all alone… but you’ll still be beautiful, on your own.””

Travis Shosa is the founder and editor-in-chief of Stamens/Pistils/Parties. Formerly the runner of COUNTERZINE, he has bylines at Pitchfork, The Alternative, and Post-Trash among others.

Leave a Reply

Blog at