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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