Do you ever get attracted to bands solely on the basis of their name? Speedy Ortiz was just too good to miss and this curiosity has revealed a excellent debut album where the ghosts of Stephen Malkmus, Elliot Smith and Liz Phair abound. The bands blurb is that they were founded by "guitarist and songwriter Sadie Dupuis who left New York City for the wilds of Northampton, MA in order to develop "her third grade poetry". In doing so, she began Speedy Ortiz, a self-recorded lo-fi project named after a minor character from the Love and Rockets comic series. The band soon became something else entirely as bassist Darl Ferm, guitarist Matt Robidoux, and drummer Mike Falcone teamed up to form a full quartet, balancing abrasive noise with infectious earworms." Well done to whoever composed these lines with the winning combination of self-deprecation and pinpoint accuracy.
On "Major Arcana" the initial impression left by the band is of a somewhat glum exterior, yet slowly lyrics appear which are well constructed, often humorous and highlight dangerous hints of melody. Check out the lovely "No below" easily the most accessible song on the album where Dupuis charts an accident leading to a broken knee, plus a consequent friendship that leads her to reflect that " I didn't know you when you were a kid/But swimming with you, it sure feels like I did". There are some beguiling songs contained on this debut. Opener "Pioneer Spine" has that sort of quirky and angular backdrop that Pavement made their own special trademark, it combines both fun and menace and is a great start. Some will say that the dark hues of the jagged power chords on "Tiger Tank' are a throwback to 90s underground music, but Dupuis voice infects it all with a sweetness that stops any descent into miserabilism. Other tracks which catch the ear include "Hitch" which displays a sneaky pop sensibility and the feedback laden closer "Cash club" which is punchy and packed with crunchy riffs. Speedy Ortiz have been described as a "more playful Slint" and it is true that "Gary" does hark bark to a bygone age when "Spiderland" was glued to the turntables of all discerning American youth. Yet "Major Arcana" is one of the best debut albums of 2013 and has been lauded with such praise by the alternative music press in the US that it can barely stand the weight. This is good news since this band could be real contenders and in Ms. Dupuis they have a rock poet whose slow burning wisdom may signal huge levels of future potential.
on 13 March 2014
An interesting American indie rock band who are an amalgam of The Faith Healers, Throwing Muses, Pavement and My Ruin i.e quiet/noisy, angular and guitar driven.
Sadie has a good albeit fragile/wavery voice, noticeably on the quieter tracks 'no below' & 'gary' (which i actually preferred), and it's often low in the mix and sometimes overshadowed by the intensity of the guitars but repeated plays do reveal a depth initially not heard.
The album opens well with the excellent 'pioneer spine' and another favourite 'cash cab' has some excellent fuzzy guitars and vocals but the album as a whole is let down by a few less strong songs e.g 'casper' & 'plough' but overall worth a listen especially if you're a fan of any of the above bands.