When Speedy Ortiz’s first full length, Major Arcana, dropped in 2013, I experienced a strong sense of addiction. From the first listen, the crooked, catchy rhythms, jangly vocal delivery, and lyrical wit had me listening over and over. Speedy Ortiz doesn’t put out run of the mill indie rock, they have a very unique formula. While seeming not to be able to escape the comparisons made by critics to bands like Pavement and Sonic Youth, Speedy Ortiz has boasted a unique style since their beginning, and one that they stuck to on Foil Deer for a good reason.
The most notable quality in Speedy Ortiz’s music, other than the fuzzed out freakishly catchy guitar riffs, would be vocalist’s Sadie Dupuis’ thoughtful, charismatic, and metaphorical lyrics. Dupuis’ elegant wordplay is strongly influenced by her strong background in poetry, as she is a candidate for an MFA in poetry at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her off-pace, cryptic vocals keep you fully alert, always searching for some sort to hidden meaning behind her lyrics. While her dizzying vocal delivery may be a turn off to some listeners, others it seems hypnotic, perfectly matching with the swaying, fuzzy guitars. Dupuis does not hold back lyrically; she provides some really visceral, honest, defensive declarations through her words.
Stylistically, Foil Deer is not much of a departure from Major Arcana. But with these similarities come strong moments of advancement as well. While managing to keep with their DIY appeal, the band was able to produce a much cleaner, well put together group of tracks on Foil Deer, while still managing to keep it artfully sloppy sounding. I do think, though, that with this almost lazy style of playing can at times make some of the songs sound the same, causing some tracks to be unfortunately forgettable. Aside from a couple stinkers, the band is able to produce some of their most strong, memorable melodies and hooks, proving that they are near the top of their game instrumentally.
One of the coolest moments on this album comes halfway through the track, “Puffer,” which gives off a very strong R&B type vibe. The boom clap style drum track and maracas make you just want to stomp your foot to the beat, while the frantic, distorted, swirling guitar sections about midway through give off an incredibly eerie feel. “Puffer” tends to feel like the odd one out on the record, standing out in a unique way. Foil Deer has quite a few moments just sort of blend into one and become quite forgettable, but songs like “Puffer” has that special, stand out quality
On Foil Deer, Speedy Ortiz manages that it is still possible to do 90’s indie rock with a degree of innovation. While their first album was still a very interesting listen, the lack of energy made it more difficult to focus in on the lyrics that Dupris was lackadaisically delivering. From their Sports EP in 2012 to Foil Deer, you can hear the complexity and experimentation gradually implemented into their music. Simply put, Speedy Ortiz are doing it right. Their music has grown in quality with each release, all while managing to stick to the musical ideas that made them unique in the first place.