Los Angeles – Speedy Ortiz’s Foil Deer kicks off with a measured, angular guitar riff that descends into discordant noise and then suddenly halts, allowing Sadie Dupuis’ attention-getting vocal work to take center stage for a few seconds. While the song, “Good Neck,” never makes it to the two-minute mark, serves as the perfect encapsulation of the other 11 songs on the album. Throughout the album, Speedy Ortiz shift gears, change dynamics, and alters the mood from track to track and verse to verse.
Out this week, Foil Deer is the Northampton, MA band’s second “true” studio full-length, following their 2013’s Carpark Records debut Major Arcana. Speedy Ortiz began as a solo project of Dupuis, eventually transforming into the current four piece incarnation with Michael Falcone (drums), Darl Ferm (bass), and Devin McKnight (guitar). With a second solid LP in a row, they are beginning to show themselves as a worthy successor in the lineage of the influential Western Massachusetts indie scene, best known as the breeding ground for guitar-heavy groups like The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr.
Best New Bands last covered Speedy Ortiz in 2014 while they were still touring in support of Major Arcana.
What has always set Speedy Ortiz apart from their 80’s/90’s guitar rock revival contemporaries is the depth and nuance in their songcraft, and most notably the superb lyricism. It is no surprise when one learns a bit more about Dupuis; her academic credentials include two years at MIT pursuing a dual math/music major, a degree in writing from Barnard College, and an MFA in Poetry from UMass Amherst. Dupuis’ vocals are quite wordy, yet she is always able to push every syllable through in a smoothly eloquent manner.
The first single from Foil Deer is the second track, “Raising the Skate,” a raucous declaration of confidence. The melodic guitar riff belies a powerful chorus replete with Dupuis’ at-times warbling vocals advising anyone listening that “I’m chief, not the overthrown/Captain not a cronie/So if you want to row you better have an awfully big boat.” The song finishes with a soaring, octave-driven climax with Dupuis’ voice reigning down as if she was some sort of god.
While “Raising the Skate” and the subsequent track, “The Graduates” recall tracks from Major Arcana, other songs take drastic stylistic turns. “Puffer” recalls the griminess of early 90’s electronica, “Swell Content” is a bite-size chunk of straightforward pop-punk driven by the hookiest guitar riff this side of Superchunk, and “Zig” opens with a measured acoustic verse that gives way to a pastiche of post-hardcore before reprising the acoustic intro with twinkling electric guitars. “My Dead Girl” is a haunting piece of storytelling by Dupuis, a moody, slow paced song that stands out among the anthemic riffing around it.
With Foil Deer, Speedy Ortiz have once again proven that they are among the best of the bands that have put the guitar back into indie rock. Best of all, they are a band that is well known for having an excellent live show, and these songs seem like they will sound amazing as they band tours in support of the album.