It is said brevity is the soul of wit, Northampton, Mass. based four piece Speedy Ortiz definitely bring that thought to mind with their second studio album “Foil Deer.”
The group’s raw meets Pop sound coalesced with vocalist Sadie Dupuis’ audaciously clever lyrics have made Speedy Ortiz a much buzzed new band out of the ever blossoming east coast DIY scene.
Their early EPs, along with their debut album, 2013’s “Major Arcana”, are must listens for anyone looking for the “Nu-90’s” artists grabbing the best qualities of the decade, but it’s here with “Foil Deer” that they have meticulously polished their songwriting into something new and Dupuis brings some of the sharpest imprecations in the form of lyrics, she’s got powerful words and even greater power to back them.
Each song off this record feels concise, through amelodic breakdowns or smooth bridges, they have honed their instrumentation into extravagant arrangements that evolve flawlessly, clearly veering away from the canonical repetition of the DIY bands in vogue.
Wherever the songs go, it feels right, even if change ostensibly comes out of nowhere. Not a single track on this record feels drawn out or mired in the distortion ether a lot of groups tend to get caught in when trying to build “tension”, Speedy Ortiz can get intense yet can immediately calm things down in their quietest moments.
This is apparent in the album’s opener “Good Neck”, the fleeting intro begins with a dissonant instrumental that feels like the march of a very confused army, yet it all disappears when Dupuis’ brief vocals cut in with a guitar, like honey dipped arsenic: “I’ve known you not so very long / but watch your back, because baby’s so good with a blade.”
You don’t want to fuck with her, even as sweet and cheeky as her voice can seem, underneath is a passion that can outburn the Kennedy Flame, and a diction that can make Father John Misty’s Josh Tillman sound like Lee Ving of Fear.
A Poetry Major at UMass Amherst, Dubuis brings out introspection, doomed relationships and self-empowerment into her lyrics throughout “Foil Deer”.
Be it the tough as nails declaration of power in “Raising the Skate” or the sweet Funk meets Industrial “Puffer”, which features Dubuis invoking sweet aggression that can give allusions to a late 90’s Shirley Manson.
Speedy Ortiz’ nostalgia element has definitely waned here, the influences are clear but they have dissected their past releases and taken out the essence of what makes their sound so fresh.
While it is easy for them to be labeled as a hackneyed Indie rock meets “sorta” punk group if looking back solely on their older material, it is important to see how much they have improved from this album.
“Foil” is high energy through and through, bouncing between emotions and points throughout it’s 12 piece tracklist and slightly over 40 minutes in run time.
Even the eighth track “Zig” could have fooled me for a Folk Pop slow burner in it’s opening bars, yet transmutes into a wordy swashbuckle jam guaranteed to make even the most jaded of Indie vets bob their heads.
“Ginger” was a song I kept coming back to with it’s raw energy and cacophonous guitars; the punk edge, commingled with Dubois’ playful yet austere vocals, is topped with guitarist Devin McKnight’s adroit guitar work that can leave an impression.
Every song has a motif of beautiful melodies, buzzsaw distortion, opaque textures or just pure feedback that could make My Bloody Valentine jealous.
The closing song “Dvrk Wvrld” starts slow and feels sullen in it’s lyrics, when the band joins in it gives the slightly darker song a veil of noise, you can almost forget about the pain underneath it all.
The longest song on this record doesn’t even hit five minutes and they can make an insightful tune that leave a long lasting taste in half of the time.
Each progression is crafted with laser precision in “Foil Deer”, the riffs are somewhere between mean and sexy, the syncopations are well placed and vocal harmonies are on point; this album has the right amount of smarts, sincerity, jam band ambition and energy I’ve heard of recent.
Dubois is a force to be reckoned with, her bellicose thoughts and self examination are carefully hidden under the guise of misdirection and cryptic illusion.
This is the first DIY band record I’ve heard where there is a immersion factor, as if each song is a caveat pretending to be a story. Though this album can get caught slightly in it’s own ambition at times, even reaching back for a few old habits in a few songs that can feel like beating the dead Pop-Punk horse, it’s almost without reproach.
Unlike the expedited four day production of “Major Arcana”, “Foil Deer” was a labor of time and patience that breaks away from the stereotypes of the band reaching back instead of looking forward, but if you can’t tell, Speedy Ortiz are already way ahead.
Kieran J. MacIntyre is a voracious music nerd of all genres, bass player and managing editor of M&C Music. You can find him on Twitter