[sic] Magazine

Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana

Do you ever get attracted to bands solely on the basis of their name? Speedy Ortiz was just too good to miss and in doing it has revealed a excellent debut album where the ghosts of Stephen Malkmus , Elliot Smith and Liz Phair abound. The band’s 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. Speedy Ortiz soon became something else entirely as bassist Darl Ferm , guitarist Matt Robidoux , and drummer Mike Falcone teamed up to form a full band, balancing abrasive noise with infectious earworms.’ Well done to whoever composed these lines for their combination of self-deprecation and pinpoint accuracy.

On Major Arcana the initial impression left by the band is a somewhat glum exterior, yet slowly lyrics appear, which are well constructed and often humorous with 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 and 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 miserabalism.

Other tracks that 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 are real contenders and in Ms Dupuis they have a rock poet whose slow burning wisdom is packed with future potential.