In the past, Bostonian indie rock band Speedy Ortiz have been constantly compared to Pavement, partly due to the band’s angular and off-kilter playing style. Singer/guitarist Sadie Dupuis’ unique phrasing and lyrics (she has a degree in poetry) have been likened to Stephen Malkmus (who Speedy Ortiz recently toured with). But with the release of their second full-length album Foil Deer, it shows that these comparisons can now be put to bed.
The band does still mainly trade in energetic and wordy rock and roll workouts, with the band creating enough noise for Dupuis’ lyrics to be the finishing touch rather than a distraction. This is certainly the case in two of the album’s highlights, the singles “Raising The Skate” and “The Graduates.” The former features stop-start rhythms from bassist Darl Ferm and drummer Mike Falcone, which allows Dupuis and lead guitarist Devin McKnight to trade riffs easily over them as the song threatens to tumble into chaos. “The Graduates” adds keyboard flourishes to the band’s sound, as the song builds from jangly verses to another explosive chorus where Dupuis repeats the mantra “I was the best to be in second place, but now I’m just the runner-up.”
A more reflective track, “My Dead Girl” is a standout, as the band use keyboards to create an uneasy atmosphere before the emphatic chorus a la fellow Bostonians Throwing Muses. In a similar vein, “Zig” begins with a plaintive acoustic guitar before transitioning into probably the heaviest song on the album. There is no doubt that the band are masters of “quiet verse/loud chorus.” For fans of Speedy’s punkier side, “Swell Content” is a sub two minute rager, while “Ginger” packs a lot of twisted time signatures into less than three minutes.
“Puffer,” however, is without doubt the most interesting track the band have ever done. It’s an unholy hybrid of industrial noise and R&B, which on the surface sounds it shouldn’t work, but with Dupuis’ snarl of “I’m the God of the liars” and some great guitar work it does. It will be interesting to see if the band continue to explore this sound in the future.
With the trump card of Dupuis’ ability to write such interesting lyrics and the band’s ability to add new elements to their angular sound without watering it down, this album should firmly put Speedy Ortiz on the map.