Speedy Ortiz wear their love of the 1990s on their torn, flannel sleeves, which makes this particular round of Spot the Influence about as challenging as a game of teeball: there’s the squalling, guitar-on-guitar carnage of Archers of Loaf , the grungy mysticism of Helium (Dupuis lifted the title Major Arcana from a book she was reading on black magic), and of course the deadpan wit of vintage Phair (“I was never the witch that you made me to be,” Dupuis tells a burnt-out old flame on “Plough”, “Still you picked a virgin over me”). But don’t let any of that lead you to think that Speedy Ortiz are your garden variety nostalgists. Even at its most distortion-caked, there’s a melodic confidence and a gimlet-eyed clarity about Major Arcana that’s a rare find in a debut. They’ve got reverence for their forebears, sure, but unlike a lot of recent bands exhuming the ghosts of indie rock past, Speedy Ortiz also have faith in the peculiar personality traits that set them apart from their heroes. With its quaking rhythms, twisted riffage, and jet-black wit, Major Arcana is a redemptive ode to the broken bones that grew back together a little crooked-- the ones that taught Dupuis how to walk in her own weird way.

Still, amid Speedy Ortiz's slingshot tension, there's a tenderness to "No Below" that's almost hard to hear. Dupuis' voice trembles when she sings, "Spent the summer on crutches and everybody teased / except for this one friend I almost forgot." With a lanky guitar melody that Dupuis mimics with her voice, it's the most Pavement -y moment on an album that will inevitably get compared to Stephen Malkmus and company. (After all, she does front Babement, which is exactly what you think it is.) But unlike Pavement's music, with its cool distance, Major Arcana is intimately entangled in its explosive coils and bends.

Just as these seemingly messy songs adhere in unexpected ways, a few others don’t entirely hold together. Nonetheless, Major Arcana is a markedly assured debut, one that makes Speedy Ortiz an act to watch. Like its songs, the band’s detonation is inevitable.

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