Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana


Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana
Carpark Records
July 9, 2013

What It Sounds Like:  Disjointed indie garage guitar pop, full of fat-bellied riffs and chunky noise, all led by a Hayley Williams sound-alike.

I don’t care if they take my legs.
I’ve limped before
I can limp again.

Don’t be thrown off by the Hayley Williams comment.

More than promising, Speedy Ortiz, fronted by the twenty-four year old Pavement-and poetry-loving student turned professor at UMass Sadie Dupuis, gives us an excellent blend of experimental tunes propped up by no-holds-barred pop hooks.  You may not be singing along on your first listen, but this record is anything but a muddle of mint at the bottom of your Mojito.  It’s the sprig standing out on top of your glass, full of originality, bite, and color.  That is, as much color as you can get when Sadie is passing out lines like You get amnesia / And now I want to forget / How I loved someone / Who left me for dead…

I just love that intro to Tiger Tank.  Just a thick, heavy bass paired up with a meaty guitar that gives way to a quirky indie pop jam.  The simplicity that is Casper (1995), with its nonchalant and relaxed walks up and down the fret of the guitar, shows their diversification even further.

Over the years, I’ve founded a purely personal rule that, nine times out of ten, I can apply with pretty dependable accuracy.  It’s this:  If my favorite song on a record is one of the slower ones, or more relaxed ones, that record usually ends up being something pretty great.  I’m a rock guy, and I like my tunes with energy, power, and uptempo rhythms.  When you blow me away with a song that is the opposite of those things – you’ve outdone yourself.  Speedy Ortiz does this with No Below, not only showcasing a dreamlike, lazy, two a.m. riff, but pairs it up with Sadie’s sweet, bruised, and yearning vocal that tells the story of utter despair and last second redemption.  She croons her way through a tale certainly worthy of your time (click here to read the full lyrics), but summarizes her mind with her delivery:

And though I was sad
I was better off just being dead
Better off just being dead
Without my old friend

True, I once said
I was better off just being dead
But I didn’t know you yet

I’ve mentioned only three songs off this record so far, but there is more than enough depth to dive into if you want a larger dose from the rest of these tracks.  The lyrics that I’ve mentioned are probably the most simplistic off the record, so further poking, prodding, and analyzing is more than welcome.  There’s no doubt that Sadie would teach her freshman students (that are only a couple years her junior) the same.

From the squealing distortion of Cash Cab, to the slow-building Pioneer Spine, which takes a minimalistic, empty room approach that ends in a wall of woozy energy – you’re sure to be in for a new experience here.  It’s fresh and inviting, while completely unstereotypical.  By the time you’re halfway through the drunken and chaotic closer MKVI, you’re not gonna know what hit you – and painful or not – you’ll know that you’re enjoying every second of it.


If you had to listen to two tracks:  Tiger Tank / No Below


One response to “Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana

  1. I have such mixed feelings about this album and it’s interesting to read your opinion. I find it arty and, therefore appealing, but really hard to just let loose and listen to it. Maybe, it’s not for me … [sigh]

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