February 5, 2014

Review: Speedy Ortiz | Real Hair EP

It's hard to believe that fewer than two years have elapsed since the release of Speedy Ortiz's debut single, "Taylor Swift" b/w "Swim Fan." Since its inception, the band has worked its ass off, and as a result it has become one of the biggest successes in contemporary indie rock. Oh, yeah: it also wrote awesome songs. And while we don't pretend to know what drove the decision, it is interesting that, while its terrific and terrifically successful 2013 long-player was recorded with Justin Pizzoferrato, the Northampton, Mass.-based quartet reunited with producer and engineer Paul Q. Kolderie for its newest set of songs, the uniformly thrilling Real Hair EP. Mr. Kolderie was also behind the boards for the aforementioned debut single. His bona fides are well-documented and recitation of same typically includes words like Pixies and Radiohead and Dinosaur and Uncle Tupelo.

Could Speedy Ortiz be hoping to catch a little of Mr. Kolderie's '90s shine to help boost them to some mythical "next level" with Real Hair, which will be released by Carpark next week? Like we said, we don't know -- we're not even sure what "next level" means in the music business anymore. But we do know that Kolderie's recordings (and, specifically, these recordings) sound great. His deep experience was likely reassuring as the foursome experimented with the different sounds and production techniques that make Real Hair a confident step forward for the band. The results speak for themselves: Real Hair in places sounds rounder, fuller and crunchier than last year's long-player Major Arcana [review]. Weird organ peeks out of the corners of the unsettling closer "Shine Theory," and the bass guitar on "Oxygal" is delightfully rubbery. The guitars in the chorus of the undeniable rocker "American Horror" rage like a tsunami. Last month we called that song "an explosive and noisy (and, we should say, radio-ready) gem, shot through with unforgettable melodies. The lyrics deal with watching a loved one struggle with mental health issues, and despite the seriousness of the subject matter fronter Sadie Dupuis is still able to forge perhaps her most undeniably sing-alongable chorus since the 'Taylor Swift' single, no small feat."

The reunion with Mr. Kolderie may not have been the band's only look to the past. Attentive listeners may hear in Real Hair the influence of Pavement's superlative sophomore set Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. In a curious little bit of serendipity, Ms. Dupuis and her cohorts Mike Falcone, Darl Ferm and Matt Robidoux all recently proffered remarks to MySpace (yeah, really) regarding that particular Pavement record (which was released 20 years ago next week). Of course, if we are going to plot parallels between the discographies of Pavement and Speedy Ortiz, well, Real Hair should be analogous to the Watery, Domestic EP, right? Nonetheless, the dense, melodic thrust of Dupuis and Robidoux's guitars in the chorus of "American Horror" suggest a more aggressive restatement of the final 30 seconds of Pavement's "Elevate Me Later." Similarly, Speedy's "Everything's Bigger" announces itself with a grimy revision of the descending melody to Pavement's biggest commercial moment, "Cut Your Hair," an aural motif that recurs between choppy verses that highlight Dupuis' easy drawl. "When I got my driver's license, I would cruise around listening to Crooked Rain with my windows down," Dupuis told Justin Timberlake's cute retro web site. Vigintennial sonic echoes aside, it's Dupuis' facility with story-telling, her deceptively versatile singing voice, and the interesting sonic interplay between the vocals and guitar melodies that persist as Speedy Ortiz's defining charms, and it is those charms -- and not rank adulation of a bygone band -- that shine brightest on Real Hair. Incidentally, Speedy Ortiz will tour with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks this spring upon the Mass. act's return from a strand of tour dates in the UK and the obligatory sojourn to the annual South By Southwest confabulation.

Speedy Ortiz plays an all-ages record release show in Cambridge, Mass. this Saturday at Tasty Burger with supporting acts The Channels, Sneeze and Idiot Genes. The evening is also a release show for Sneeze's long-player Wilt; there are additional (and FREE) Real Hair release shows in New York Friday and Monday. For the time being, one can stream all of Real Hair via Pantsfork Adpants right here. But, as Edie Brickell warned lo those many years ago, everything is temporary. When that link dies you can stream the aforementioned "American Horror" and "Everything's Bigger" via the Soundcloud embeds below. There may or may not will be copies of Real Hair availz for salez Saturday night, and the set can be pre-ordered on orange vinyl via Insound here and as a download via the digital music store operated by the company with the $447 billion market capitalization here.

Speedy Ortiz: Interpants | Facebook | Soundcloud

1 comment:

Ric Dube said...

when i hear her voice in this sound i think of early bettie serveert as much as pavement -- though either way this is delightful