Seriously oddball, hesitantly optimistic pop.
Released: 27th April 2018
It’s “the year of the weird”, according to the first words of ‘Buck Me Off’, opening the third album by Northampton, Massachusetts’ Speedy Ortiz. After the last couple, frankly we’d take a weird year in place of, y’know, all the Other Stuff.
And it was some of that same Stuff which led to the band scrapping the album’s worth of material they’d assembled pre-8/11/16, abandoning anything “strictly personal or lovey dovey” to those halcyon pre-2016 days. “Social politics and protest have been a part of our music from day one,” says singer, guitarist and synth whizz Sadie Dupuis, “and I didn’t want to stop doing that on this album.”
The result is Speedy Ortiz’ most pertinent, pointed and playful album to date, taking leads from their forthright and hooky second ’Foil Deer’ (key lyric: “I’m not bossy/ I’m the boss”), along with Dupuis’ electropop solo project SAD13 – whose ‘Slugger’ dealt explicitly with consent – but upping the ante with seriously oddball, hesitantly optimistic pop.
Dupuis’ songs often draw comparisons with the near-perfect Pavement – she was at one time in the all-female covers band Babement (a name that’s up there with Misstallica or Joanne Joanne) after all – and while there’s nothing derivative here, ‘Twerp Verse’ finds the band in a similar territory to Pavement’s ‘Brighten The Corners’: accessible, but still slanted, still enchanting.
Adding a second guitarist – Andy Molholt – appears to have allowed Dupuis to focus more on keyboard parts and synth textures. The otherwordly, sub-aquatic intro to ‘Alone With Girls’; the cheeky, squelching lines on ‘I’m Blessed’; or the Mellotron strings of ‘Buck Me Off’.
The tunes all seem to have a little more room to breathe, too, carrying the messages of ‘Lucky 88’ – about looking for other voices and new rules in the current political moment – and ‘Villain’ – a riposte to unwelcome advances – aloft on harmonies with an off-kilter charm that suggests fellow North-Easterners Throwing Muses or Belly.
Perhaps, in a parallel universe – the one where things turned out differently and everything’s a bit rubbish but basically fine – there’s another version of Speedy Ortiz’s third album, which we’ll never get to hear. In spite of it all, we should take the one we got. Rob Mesure