Heavy bass and the tattered sonic frequencies of "Good Neck" pull you into Speedy Ortiz's
new album, Foil Deer
, and it starts to make total sense that frontwoman Sadie Depuis got her start in a cover band called Babement. Short but impactful, the first song moves seamlessly into the second, "Raising the Skates," which feels like the core of this album. It's anthemic rock with idiosyncratic noise spasms and sweet pop flirtations. Depuis sings "I'm not bossy, I'm the boss," borrowed from the neo-social-media-driven-feminist Ban Bossy campaign. The song's heavy and, at times discordant, guitar riffs feel defiant in and of themselves. Just as you're getting comfortable in Depuis' knotty words, the rhythm changes direction and you find yourself in a new realm you didn't know existed. It may make you feel like you don't know where you are, which way is up and which way is down, but by the time the track fades into "The Graduates," it all makes a lot more sense. Like woah, that was some trip.
As a Happy Valley native myself, I may have a soft spot for Northampton-based Speedy Ortiz, but they've been causing a stir since their 2012 EP Sports
and then the release of their debut Major Arcana
a year later. Depuis is a Manhattan native but ended up in the Western Mass area as an MFA Poetry candidate/teacher at UMass Amherst. Her songs have a strong narrative flow but the poetic discordance, and cyclical weaving of words for the love of language is evident, even more so on this new album. If the collection of songs on Major Arcana
were about a breakup, then the work of Foil Deer
is much more universal, self-individuated, more cutting, and in many ways more raw. Garnering national attention, they've also become integral in the local scene. They toured with Northampton residents Thurston Moore and John Malloney. They also toured with Stephen Malkmus (of Pavement) and the Jicks. Clearly carving out a place for themselves in the musical, cultural place that holds those acts as their figureheads, there's still a distinct voice to Speedy Ortiz; they're in no way just a Pavement-esque throwback band.
The most memorable song on the album,"Mister Difficult," is some of the most incredible lyrical work I've heard in a long time. Depuis' voice is self-possessed like The Pixies'/Breeders' Kim Deal. The instruments are lighter, creating a foggy haze that allows words like, "You never get hit without deserving it/ and I only hit you first because I deserved my own hit too" to hit you like a punch in their own right. If you listen to this album in it's entirety, it's like a giant call-out of the daily passive aggressive bullshit that any cis-gendered-hetero-able-bodied white male (who makes up most of the contemporary "indie" music scene) just can't understand, or can intellectually understand, at his own leisure. This album isn't an intellectual exercise though; it's visceral; it's got gut and heart. Depuis was spot on when she said in a recent interview, "You can't have Kurt Cobain anymore--or you can, but it's not going to be a white guy."
There's a lot going on in Foil Deer
; there's a lot happening, and when you get out, you're in a totally different place from where you started. It's disorienting; it's jarring on the first listen, but it's also tremendously interesting, and it grows on you with time. It's complex, with every listen a new layer is uncovered. It may take a little effort, but the question is do you want pretty fluff or do you want something real, because real is gritty. This new record is not infatuation, it's the real deal, like true love.