Jagged, unpredictable, and often inscrutable, the intriguing songs of the Northampton, Massachusetts, quartet Speedy Ortiz seem to deconstruct before your very ears. Grungy guitars emit massive chords, while the thudding rhythm section embodies brutal grace as tempos lurch and surge. In the center of the storm, charismatic Sadie Dupuis—a star in the making—spews knotty lyrics with tense insistence, suggesting Bettie Serveert’s Carol van Dijk on a cranky day.
While earlier efforts (including the thrashing non-album song “Taylor Swift”) inspired comparisons to such indie-rock institutions as Pavement and the Pixies, this fierce and addictive debut is its own memorable experience. From “No Below,” where Dupuis sighs, “I didn’t know you when I was a kid / But swimming with you it sure feels like I did,” to the window-rattling “Plough,” in which she exclaims, “I was never the witch that you made me to be / Still, you picked a virgin over me,” Dupuis deftly sketches vivid scenes with a few well-chosen words, even when the literal meaning is elusive. When she’s swamped by a wave of noise, the thrilling raw power of Major Arcana is pleasure enough.