Speedy Ortiz released their second studio album Foil Deer on the 21st of April, and if you haven’t heard of them yet, now is a good time to start paying attention. The quartet from Massachusetts are led by Sadie Dupuis, who draws on her poetic career to give the band a solid foundation of witty and angst-ridden lyrics from which to build upwards. Not only has Dupuis all but mastered the art of tongue in cheek indie song writing, but she can also deliver her lyrics with a snarling attitude that can seem laid back one minute, yet instantly knock you stone cold the next. Give them a chance, and you will not regret it.
If there is a moment that sums up the transition between the 2013 debut Major Arcana and this album, it comes in the first minute and a half. “Good Neck” opens the album with a mass array of chaos, confusion, and downright cryptic raucous, before ending on the short and no so sweet, “but watch your back / because baby’s so good with a blade”.
Where the debut album oozed vulnerability and heartache, this record deals with the repercussions of those feelings, and consequently, it seethes with anger and attacks its problems head on rather than cowering behind Dupuis’ emotional lyrics. This statement of intent endures throughout “Raising The Skate“, where Dupuis marks her change in attitude with a powerful chorus, stamping out the lines, “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss / shooter not the shot” and “so if you wanna row you better have an awfully big boat” over a guitar riff that shows clear signs that the whole band is maturing along with their singer.
From here on in, the album seems to be a lot more relaxed, having already made its authority known. “The Graduates” is a melancholic tale with that overwhelming ‘rebellious youth’ feeling that comes with sneaking around and skipping class. It also gives Dupuis yet another spot in the limelight with her witty line, “I was the best at being second place / but now I’m just the runner up” and leads nicely into “Dot X“.
This is deceptively chilled out, but paying attention to the lyrics reveals a darker side, and introduces an atmosphere of intense foreboding that quite literally raises hairs on the back of your neck. About two minutes in the quartet shift the mood by leading into an almost Queens of the Stone Age esque riff and the aggressively delivered lyrics, “moonballing bureaucrats / with all this love, it is death”.
“Homonovus” continues with the trend of rather subdued verses, before diving unexpectedly into yet another spontaneous release of energy in the chorus, before giving way to the completely intoxicating “Puffer“. This song is like one of those lakes so deep that you can never see the bottom. It’s weird, kind of creepy, and even after several listens, its meaning remains somewhat mysterious. What is for sure though, is that this is one of Speedy Ortiz’s greatest feats, that features some expertly worked sonic manipulation and a fantastic melody throughout, making it a track that deserves no limit of undivided attention.
After its heavy predecessor, “Swell Content” is a return to the lighthearted, tongue in cheek mood, and ‘a shower song’ according to Dupuis, referring to the fact that it was in fact written in the shower. This one wouldn’t at all sound out of place amongst a Cribs record, and Dupuis describes it as a song that is “about people liking something for its look rather than substance“, which seems refreshingly honest bearing in mind the state of today’s music business.
If the album falters, it does it during “Zig“. It’s a song that seems to temporarily flash back two years to Major Arcana with its openly introverted lyrics, which are by no means bad, but just don’t seem to take the record anywhere and unfortunately seem vaguely out of place. What energy had been lost is regained in “My Dead Girl“, in which Dupuis makes a strong show of defiance against the people who would presume to own her, in a song that she says signifies the effects of rape culture. It’s deep stuff, and perhaps risky, but Speedy Ortiz pull it off with finesse and independence, swooning through the beautifully melodic chorus, “I go riding in cars but I’m not the driver / Riding in cars, now I’m the bad girl you wanted”.
“Ginger” takes another step away from the complex issues, and into quite possibly the most simple of them all – getting wasted. You would be forgiven for thinking this one had been written by Fidlar, but rest assured it’s still Speedy Ortiz, just as care free and youthful as they get, chanting on the chorus, “wasted, wasted like you” in an undeniably catchy fashion. “Mister Difficult” is the album’s dedicated relationship song, and speaks from experience in an attempt to give advice, “boys be sensitive and girls be, be aggressive”.
Foil Deer is rounded off by the ominous “Dvrk World“, which again attempts to give advice, but on a more personal level this time. The opening lines, “I think I take too many / this one’s the last for a while” pretty much sum up the entire song, and its message of encouragement to kick all of the bad things out of your world. The beauty of this finally is in its unfinished feel. We are left wanting more, and that is exactly what we hope for over the coming years from Speedy Ortiz. Their tour de force has been set in motion by Foil Deer, and they have marked themselves as a band to watch very intently indeed.
Speedy Ortiz’ Foil Deer is out now via Carpark, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Joe Sanger