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Major Arcana: Speedy Ortiz

8 Sep

Major Arcana


There’s a word for a band that decides to name itself after Speedy Ortiz, a tragic, minor character from the cult alternative comic Love and Rockets. That alone tells you most of what you should expect from their debut album, Major Arcana. There are songs about disturbing personal relationships, self-loathing and high school loneliness. There is also an exceptional degree of quality. This is one of the finest albums to come out in a year of great albums. So, there is a word for a band that names itself after one of the strongest moments of alternative comics. That word is apt.

To start with, the music is incredibly listenable. Speedy Ortiz have no problem showing you their influences. Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and Slint spring instantly to mind and there are far worse bands that you could draw from. Every song is meticulously crafted and flows from section to section perfectly. The guitar work is solid throughout, providing a well-defined sketch for lead singer Sadie Dupuis to color in with her dark and personal lyrics. The music itself is intricately layered, with muscular, repetitive riffs throughout over which distortions, solos and voice work cavort. This is a strong, powerful work capable of holding your attention in its own right.

The lyrics however are astounding. Personal, deep and exquisitely written, the only problem I have with them is how easily they slip below the ever-exceptional music. The songs manage to slip below the skin, but no matter what snippet you sing along to, once you vocalize the words and the shock of what you are saying forces you to pay attention to the rest of the lyrics, you find yourself more and more drawn to the stories Ms. Dupuis is telling you. Just listen to No Below, listen to it right now, and tell me that these are not the words of someone who has thought hard and long about how best to express the truths of her life.

Major Arcana is not just an album, it is what the alternative rock albums of the nineties so often promised, and what only the best managed to deliver, a masterpiece that could be your entire life.

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