Speedy Ortiz - Real Hair EP

Speedy Ortiz showcases their anarchic, vigorous sound and poetic nature on their follow up EP to their debut album.

Additional Info

8.3

ALBUM: Real Hair - EP

ARTIST: Speedy Ortiz

2014

Alternative

The grunge, slug-rock band Speedy Ortiz has crafted a follow up to their debut album Major Arcana with the short and not so sweet Real Hair. The EP is only four tracks long but holds a significant range for the band. The opening track of the EP, "American Horror", is a classic grunge rock song with a chaotic guitar riff and heavy bass, all balanced out by the rational of the drumbeat crafted by Mike Falcone. The track highlights Dupuis’ vocals against the controlled anarchy of Matt Robidoux’s guitar. The unnatural and disjointed "Oxygal" defies all norms. It’s confusing nature in melody and sound is one of its defining qualities however. Ironically, its unattractiveness is what makes it so appealing. This ability to make the ugly beautiful is amazing and an extremely difficult skill, which is why this track should not be under looked. The enticing unattractive aspects of Real Hair are what make the small capsule of music so enjoyable. Different essential characteristics on the following tracks create a slight diversity in sound from the slower tempo of "Oxygal" and "Shine Theory" to the backmasking on "Shine Theory". Although the evolution may not be perfect for the EP, this could be at fault for the length, the tracks seem to cover a varied extent of sound, which amplifies the differences for each track, making each seem like their own separate entity. Each its own uncut and distorted treasure.

The content of the album is an exciting black hole to jump into. Dupuis holding an MFA in poetry showcases her talents on Real Hair. Although much of it is inaccessible at first listen, or several first listens, her articulation and execution is admirable. From what seems like a political statement on "American Horror" to an ode to self-loathing awareness on "Shine Theory", the album varies in complexity. Her utilization of metaphors is strong with reference to the beehive on "American Horror" and water on "Oxygal". “Down to every lisp and slur I practiced to put on/It's hard to keep a dialect when you keep changing where you come from,” holds a simple complexity, which sings Dupuis on "Everything’s Bigger". It’s an almost comprehendible idea that Speedy Ortiz puts forth, yet at the same time it holds a deeper meaning that could be existential or just personal to the lyricist herself. This is something that is so wonderful about Speedy Ortiz’s music in general- the sense that the music holds this poetic charm and can be admirable just by hearing it but when one truly listens, the interpretation is personal but can also be universal in the capacity for the imagination to absorb it.

Albeit that the EP may seem not as well developed as their debut album, Real Hair is only a four track EP that does not have the room to breath or capacity to hold as much life as a full-length album. Thus Real Hair holds great potential in their future music as it promises that Speedy Ortiz holds a talented ability to create. The knack to create a strong EP can sometimes be more valuable since it is so short and gives such a small glimpse of what the band has to offer. And Speedy Ortiz has a hefty amount to offer. A sound that reflects the great bands of the nineties such as Pavement, but they are not an imitation. Speedy Ortiz illustrates that they have the creative and innovative talent to cultivate their own sound that separates from just distortion or just grunge rock. Speedy Ortiz has the ability to balance between sluggish and energetic, poetic and chaotic, elegance and madness; Real Hair portrays all these contradicting sides that make for an unstable harmony.

“Down to every lisp and slur I practiced to put on, It's hard to keep a dialect when you keep changing where you come from”

1. American Horror
The opening track to their follow up EP, this track is undeniably, elegantly anarchic. The opening guitar riff of the song is a well-crafted hook that is really quite simple but is overlapped with the heavy drum buildup that lasts for merely a second into the intense but controlled main chorus rhythm with noise flying around and wrapping around a light drumbeat without suffocating it. This is a wonderful track that rides the steady wave of control and madness without being swallowed up in the riptide. There is an understandable idea of what the extenuated melody should be with the profound bass and crying guitars but there is also this entire layer of noise that is amplified during the chorus. The contrast of clarity during the verse, which allows the listener to hear the gentle, almost lazy vocals of Dupuis, and the noise, is executed impeccably creating this atmosphere muddled with dissonance. The lyrics are definitely melancholic and poetic with no explicit meaning for the listener to understand, but they sure are beautifully gruesome with lines such as, “The state house is a tad fixed by you/ kick your dirty feet upon that web/with all those bees/ now your poor leg’s sticky oh what a bad scene.” With the title and the prolonged metaphor of a beehive one could make the assumption that Dupuis is commenting on our political state or capitalistic society. However, despite the translucent nature of the content, the song is still a true grunge gem. This is the essential listen for the EP. 8.5
2. Oxygal
The EP continues with what seems like a much mellower track but the track picks up with a ruthless bass that bites awkward, unconventional guitar riffs. Yet this quirky rhythm that is the leader of melodies for the verse aspect of the song, almost sounds of some type of demonic lullaby; it’s not the norm, but it works in all its creepy details. As the song slows down for the chorus, it develops nicely in order for Dupuis to enter into higher vocal ranges. This is one of the best aspects of the song, as she seems to replicate aspects of Elliot Smith. The song is as if Nirvana and Smith had a baby, creating this delicate but unstable infant. “Be in this picture, picture with me,” pleads Dupuis on the chorus but then continues to talk of falling into a stream accompanied with the closing lyrics, “sucking the mist up, I guess it was real/ good ting I taught you the backstroke you hate,” again create this melancholic feel. Like a dysfunctional relationship, the song hints at a very abstract meaning, yet the play of the idea of implosive love could be arguable. It’s another great track that carries the energy of the first but transforming it into a different atmosphere. 8.5
3. Everything’s Bigger
The bass drops (the grunge/alternative version of EDM). The distortion overwhelms. The drumbeat keeps it steady. Dupuis’ voice chimes in with weird and cool inflections that reflect a feminine Eddie Vedder. The song is consistent. It has a break towards the end of the track where Dupuis’ voice engages with Ferm’s bass hooks. It holds the signature sound of Speedy Ortiz making it an enjoyable listen. Whether the song is talking about a lover or one’s origins is difficult to determine. The overall meaning is again abstract, but this constant theme of poetic content is beautiful and makes the analysis or interpretation of the track endearing. 7.5
4. Shine Theory
The final conclusion to the vivacious EP does not disappoint by any means. The track is a grunge lull that starts off with a repetitive and eerie vibe that is constructed with the use of backmasking- when a record is recorded in reverse. This technique is a certain “it” factor to the track and makes for a great opener. The track then proceeds with the overlaying of a signature whiny riff and Dupuis’ voice comes in strong and fortified. Her delicate and light approach evolves as the song goes on, as her vocals take the form of a cry. The duple aspect of Dupuis’ voice is amplified and showcased on this track. The overall tone of the song is classic rock mixed with a bit of grunge that contains the contrast of soft and thunderous volume. It has a hopeless and pathetic mood with the dense guitar and mutli-aesthetic vocals. The poetic depth of this track is also very interesting with verses such as, “Cause my heart looks in on itself and any friend I make’s a stagehand at best,” and the entire second verse that discusses leaving neighbors scary notes and the protagonist as a “spoiled mess.” The song reeks of self-awareness, but not self-hatred. It’s completely fascinating in content and is one of the more accessible songs on the EP. Discussing the protagonist’s inability to conform or live within the mainstream with empathetic awareness- like a teen angst anthem. It’s a wonderful track. 9.0
Written by Margaret Farrell
Margaret Farrell is a writer from outside Chicago. She is currently a student at New York University, studying journalism and creative writing.



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