Following a mainstream wave of ’90s post-punk nostalgia and low-profile namesakes, Speedy Ortiz took back the reigns of the underground rock ’n’ roll scene with its 2013 debut, “Major Arcana,” blending together distorted guitar progressions with a stream of witty and vulgar lyrics. Now, fewer than seven months later, the western Massachusetts alternative-rock pop brigade is back and breaking down melodic barriers, dropping “Real Hair,” a follow-up EP that proves Speedy Ortiz is leading and setting industry trends, rather than just following them.
Only four songs, “Real Hair” keeps its runtime short, and guitar-riffs tightly wound to make room for frontwoman Sadie Dupuis, who specializes in slinging insults and biting metaphors that can have listeners cracking up at one moment and crying all in the same chorus. “Real Hair” showcases the 25-year-old songstress at the top of her game, as she sneers over some “bonebag” she fell for, only to be found in the next song cackling out witty quips like, “And I don’t want to listen when he tries to talk/ I stare at his flapping jaw.”
The album is jam-packed with twists and turns to match Dupuis’ careening mood. Opener “American Horror” begins with a seething guitar rumble, only to dive into a jungle of charging drums and knotty, angular riffs. Plunging forward, “Oxygal” is equally sinister and dark, with its heavy guitar thrashing that exposes Dupuis and her wounds, causing her to cry out, “And who wants to sleep by her who death becomes/ Someone who sleeps with her neck in reverse/ It’s only me.” Constantly switching its sound, Speedy Ortiz refuses to be pigeonholed or labelled as a second-coming of a tired sound, shredding their way forward with a new melodic variance.
The EP’s closing songs, “Everything’s Bigger” and “Shine Theory,” continue to unravel with Dupuis, her vocals dipping below a crescendo of distorted guitar, briefly resurfacing for a powerful foot-stomping chorus before being pushed under by a smoldering drum build. Anchoring the set, the songs tease listeners with a hint of the experimental, lo-fi punk sound that can be expected from the group on its next full album.
Running just 13 minutes in length, “Real Hair” offers a fast-moving, riotous and impressive range of sound that marks another great leap forward for these newcomer indie rockers.