Author Archives: Aylin Malcolm

Speedy Ortiz - Major Arcana

New Releases: Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana

Speedy Ortiz - Major Arcana

In tarot readings, the Major Arcana – the part of the deck that did not become our modern playing cards – are not to be trifled with. Whether good or ill, what they portend is usually unexpected and out of the subject’s control. No surprise, then, that this short album delivers so many musical and lyrical surprises, or that its influences from Pavement-era rock coalesce into something original and relentlessly engaging.

There are twists within individual tracks and across the album. ‘Pioneer Spine’ is as amorphous as the character it describes, and slow-building songs like ‘No Below’ contrast with others like the loud, distortion-heavy ‘Cash Cab’. But some patterns do emerge, and by the time I reach ‘Gary’, I am so used to the album’s wry tone that I wonder who Gary is and what he did wrong. Similarly, with ‘Fun’, I expect (and am granted) sarcastic lyrics to counterbalance the genuinely fun bassline.

Another constant of the album is its lyrical professionalism. Singer/songwriter/album artist Sadie Dupuis is a poetry major, and it shows: in ‘Tiger Tank’, she asserts, ‘My mouth is a factory for every toxic part of speech I spew.’ It’s a remarkable line, not only for its meaning and alliteration, but for its reference to lexical categories. Another highlight, ‘Plough’, is briefly waif-like and drifting before transitioning into a resounding chorus with some of the cleverest lyrics on the album. Wave your lighters and shout it out: ‘I was never the witch that you made me to be. / Still, you picked a virgin over me.’

The last track, ‘MKVI’, is a longer exploration of sound and a fitting end, but the lyrics hold one more surprise: ‘Medicate me now, I’m slumping / ’cause I’ve got nothing, I’ve got nothing.’ Really, she’s got nothing after all this? I hope this is modesty or artistic license, because I’m already expecting more. Dupuis may be no witch, but some kind of magic is in operation here, and if we can predict anything from this album, it’s that the band’s future work is to be keenly anticipated.

Lucky numbers: 1, 2, 3, 9

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Saxsyndrum/Sweet Mother Logic/Helado Negro @ Casa del Popolo, July 26

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How often do you hear someone say, ‘Of the three bands in the concert, I liked the first one best’? Like bridesmaids, opening bands are expected to support the main act without overshadowing it. But if the upbeat electro-funk of Saxsyndrum, a local sax-and-drum duo who are gaining momentum in and beyond Montreal, runs counter to the pretensions of the indie scene, it’s hard to fault them for it. They’re just too much fun.

Thus on Friday, a small but rapt audience paid tribute to the spirit of good music by watching the improbably synchronised pair perform. Even their body movements were coordinated, when cheerful drummer Nick wasn’t attempting to kick one leg higher and higher. Their frenetic but tightly controlled energy was irresistible, and in no time much of the floor was dancing – at only 9:30 pm.

Second to play was Sweet Mother Logic, another local act with a sleepier, more intricately constructed sound. Like Saxsyndrum, they are purely instrumental, but their music is less aggressively dance-oriented. They play mellow and melodic songs with a gentle groove, structured around a cello and a violin that seemed subtly out of tune on Friday, just enough to lend their music an eerie quality.

After two acts with unusual instrumentation, the crowd welcomed an American artist who played no instruments at all. Aside from a set of loops and samples, Helado Negro relied on his mellifluous voice and dynamic stage presence to engage the crowd. And he is fascinating to watch: his gestures and expressions give him the appearance of someone telling a story. You can dance to him, or you can stand and watch in admiration as he plays out his imagined narratives. Helado Negro, aka Roberto Carlos Lange, has a number of other projects right now, including OMBRE (ambient) and Epstein (hip-hop/electronic). Hopefully this means plenty of opportunities to see him perform in Montreal.

In all, it was a night worth spending out, and credit goes to the MEG Festival for presenting three great acts. All were unique and inspiring, although my heart still belongs to Saxsyndrum. Just don’t book them for your wedding.