Speedy Ortiz

Real Hair

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For Real Hair, Speedy Ortiz enlisted the production services of Paul Q. Kolderie, who helps the band untangle some of the knotty discordance of its debut album, Major Arcana, in much the same way he helped the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. balance their heavy and poppy impulses. It's a fitting collaboration, since Sadie Dupuis and company still often resemble a composite of Helium's tangled guitar interplay, Liz Phair's throaty vulnerability, and Bettie Serveert's ability to sound fragile and moshpit-ready at the same time. This time, however, the mix feels more organic and melodic, especially on the EP's bookends. "American Horror" and "Shine Theory" bring the band's hooks -- and Dupuis' vocals -- to the fore, while satisfyingly crunchy guitars and ever-so-slightly less cryptic lyrics ("You'd be out on a stretcher after your home stretch") serve as reminders that this is still the same band behind Major Arcana. In addition to their regular arsenal of guitar rock, for Real Hair Speedy Ortiz also drew inspiration from contemporary Top 40 and R&B songs. This isn't immediately apparent apart from the EP's cleaner production and marginally tighter songwriting, which trickles down even to the more Major Arcana-esque tracks like "Oxygal," a sidewinding song with choruses that teeter between prettiness and chaos, and "Everything's Bigger," which boasts a tumbling riff that a band like Pavement would be proud to call their own. On all four of these songs, Speedy Ortiz keep the tension of their earlier work and arguably add to it by giving the pop side of their musical tug-of-war more pull. It's their catchiest offering to date, with enough depth and immediate appeal to rival their influences.

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