Foil Deer is good stress music for people that don’t necessarily act out. If you’re the type that feels the weight of the world and a stifling, oppressive atmosphere and it makes you go to a punching bag, I might recommend “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit. If you’re the type that just sort of lies down and then your fingertips start tingling, I might recommend the entirety of Foil Deer. It’s a mosh pit filmed with a phantom camera, played back in agonizing and gorgeous slow motion and you feel every chunking guitar hit. The closest it gets to the thrashing you’d expect from a guitar-centric band is “Swell Content,” which has a pop sheen that covers the ugly-but-therapeutic dissonance that colors the rest of the album.
That’s not to say that Speedy Ortiz, or chief wordsmith Sadie Dupuis, are any kind of lazy ragers. This is an album that is primarily about wrath and attitude. It spits venom at all kinds of shit people in a garbage world. It just doesn’t require the listener to pump a fist or bang a head. The way people feel about Run the Jewels dropping righteous bombs, that’s how I feel about Speedy Ortiz, but also I am the type of dude that lies down on my floor and stares at the ceiling. The low tempo gnarly riffs are the sound of drunk sickness, like if Pavement’s college slacker sound became an alcoholic in their late twenties. I’m enjoying the feeling immensely.
Let’s talk standouts: “Mister Difficult” is an intoxicating, circular and brooding song that stresses Dupis’ voice and its easy glide. “Dvrk Wvrld” reminds me of modern Cursive, but with a better handle of how to pay off the grunge-y guitars with rewarding hooks. Then there’s “The Graduates,” the song with the most storytelling, with the great chorus: “I was the best at being second place / now I’m just the runner-up.” It’s such a harpoon through the chest you can hardly recognize it as a love song.
More than anything I will remember Foil Deer as the album that Speedy Ortiz became a recognizable, defined and vital sound. I loved Major Arcana, but it didn’t register as much more than a sweet guitar record with a couple must-have songs. It was something you might’ve enjoyed, filed under “lo-fi alt rock bands” and it would have been perfectly serviceable for your occasional needs. Foil Deer is rife with personality, politics, and king-of-the-hill assertiveness. They’ve made it to the dance, although I suspect the entire concept of the dance is a bourgeois farce to this lovely, seething band.