If you pay attention to the music underground, you may be aware that it’s pretty popular to wear 1990s musical influences on your sleeve these days. Speedy Ortiz are as guilty as anyone of being influenced by the guitar heavy indie rock of the Clinton years. Where they differ from many of their contemporaries is that they never descend into mimicry. They have guitars and riffs that would feel at home on Sub Pop or Matador in ‘97, but they never copy wholesale.
One of the first noticeable differences from many of their influences, is that Speedy Ortiz have a female vocalist. Sadie Dupuis commands the vocalist position with power and confidence; offering vocals that stretch and bend to match the winding and knotty guitars. Every word is delivered in a way that sounds like a powerful young woman, rather than the slacker mumble of 90s indie boys.
The band plays the quiet/loud dynamic very, very well over the course of Major Arcana, but they also drift from normal rock and roll conventions into jazzier territory. Flurries of notes in the tangled guitar lines show off the band’s technical ability and their songwriting skills. When the band decides to get together and dial up the catchiness, they create moments that will recur in your mind for weeks to come.
Overall, Major Arcana is a strong indie rock record that stands up with it’s influences, rather than bowing down to them. Speedy Ortiz are one of the best new bands of 2013, and they’ve proven that they are ahead of the grunge influenced pack by making one of the best debut full lengths in recent memory.