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Speedy Ortiz's music is as sharp as a blade. Tangled and distorted guitars intertwine with Sadie Dupuis's trenchant lyrics. It makes sense then that a central theme of their sophomore album is blades. In the first track, "Good Neck", Sadie sings, "Watch your back, because baby's good with a blade". On "Dot X" Sadie warns, "Don’t ever touch my blade, you fool, you’ll be cursed for a lifetime". Major Arcana was a mostly live record about breaking up, but this time around, the band is on the attack. Everything that was was fantastic about their first record returns on this incredible follow-up, yet they manage to bring some new sounds to the table which work well for the most part.
Foil Deer was recorded after Sadie received a MFA in poetry UMass Amherst and with a better recording atmosphere than Major Arcana. These two factors give the album a much bigger feeling. The album changes moods and style often, while Major Arcana largely stayed in the same territory. The best example of this musical agility is the track "Homonovus". At the beginning of the track, the guitar is quietly knotting around Sadie's vocals, but as the track goes on, the guitar gets louder and louder, until it reaches an incredibly discordant climax. The opener of the album also achieves this build-up, but it's less sudden and extreme than on "Homonovus".
Even though Speedy Ortiz does discordant and noisy extremely well, the band also shines on their slower moments. "Zig" starts out with just Sadie and acoustic guitar. This intimate moment is reminiscent of when Speedy Ortiz was a solo project on "The Death of Speedy Ortiz", but the track then builds into a great rock track. The track "My Dead Girl" also shows the softer side of the band through dense and mysterious lyrics delivered in a haunting manor. Closing track, "Dvrk Wvrld", one of the best tracks on the album, features Sadie's most personal vocal delivery ever. When she says "I think I take too many, this one’s the last for a while", it's impossible to not feel sympathy for her, despite not knowing what she's talking about.
Despite all of the albums strong suits, there are some minor things that make this record just miss perfection. The three track progression of "Homonovus", "Puffer", and "Swell Content", while all fantastic on their own, lack consistency. "Homonovus" is nosier than anything the band has every done, "Puffer" is a funky R&B track, and then "Swell Content" is almost pop-punk. At moments in Major Arcana, it can be hard to tell when one track ends and another begins, so the band has shown how cohesive they can be. Because of the risks and experiments this album takes, it lacks the incredible cohesion of their previous record. In the scope of things these complaints are again minor as through lyrical and musical progression Speedy Ortiz is able to set themselves apart from the 90's bands they were continuously compared to after their debut and create an incredible piece of art.