Speedy Ortiz

Foil Deer

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Falling somewhere between Major Arcana's twists and turns and Real Hair's nods to Top 40 pop, Foil Deer is some of Speedy Ortiz's most polished, and unpredictable, music. The band spent nearly a month recording the album -- as opposed to the four days they had to make Major Arcana -- and the time they invested is apparent: Foil Deer opens up their dense sonic tangles without unraveling their style completely. "The Graduates" is a perfect example, with breezy keyboards that not only underscore the band's skill at distilling their tangents and angles into something downright catchy, but also distinguish them further from their '90s influences (and their like-minded contemporaries). While "Zig" borrows the same kind of slanted chords that provided the slouched backbone to so many groups from that decade, Speedy Ortiz sound far from slack on Foil Deer. Actually, they're more elastic than ever, stretching their range to include the serpentine, hip-hop-inspired beat that drives "Puffer," where an equally withering and alluring Sadie Dupuis crowns herself "god of the liars"; the slinky electric piano on "Dot X," which boasts a fairytale doom reminiscent of Helium's prog flirtations; and the wild outbursts of "Homonovus," which features some of Dupuis' and company's most brutal musical and lyrical attacks. Just as the group took its time recording Foil Deer, Dupuis sequestered herself at her mother's home in Connecticut to write its highly literate songs (it's no surprise she completed an MFA in poetry between Major Arcana and this album). In her own elliptical way, she's more commanding than ever, and her pointed wordplay feels extra-sharp on "Raising the Skate," where her rallying cry of "I'm not bossy/I'm the boss" marks just one of the times Foil Deer makes itself known as an unabashedly feminist work. Even if her barbs occasionally seem too opaque, the guilelessness in her voice is convincing and intriguing on songs as different as "Swell Content"'s revved-up, sugar-coated sting and "Mister Difficult," the bruised flipside of the cerebral bravado elsewhere on the album. Song for song, this is some of Speedy Ortiz's best work yet.

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