Northampton’s Speedy Ortiz began as the vehicle for the songwriting of Sadie Dupuis, who came to the Valley to study poetry at UMass-Amherst. Now the band is a quartet, and the four create some major noise. This is guitar-based music that revels in big, crunchy six-string tones, often offering angular melodies punctuated with chords as well as pure sound- and noise-making. At other points, the guitars intertwine single-note playing to create a feel at once relaxed and edgy. Dupuis’ voice is a touch achy, a touch girlish, and sits beautifully atop the grungy churn of guitars, propelled by a brick wall of bass and drums. Her lyrics are, thanks to her poetic bent, far more evocative than the usual anything-that-fits pop aesthetic. At times, her phrases seem barely contained by the music, an effect that works well in contrast to more minimalist passages. Major Arcana is an album whose depth begs for repeated listens. Check out Speedy Ortiz at The Elevens Oct. 11.
Segueing from fuzzy garage rock to Americana-tinged ballads, the debut EP from this Valley group is bursting at the seams with talent and energy. “Transistor Tongue” teases listeners with a pop-like intro before unleashing howling vocals amidst a marching beat and flecks of guitar chime. While the track “Fur Trapper” channels more rustic stomp and twang, it also adds a clever lyrical twist, addressing the title sportsman from the point of view of his trophy—a bearskin blanket. Still, the prize cut may be “Sleep Through The Storm.” Featuring accordion from And The Kids member Megan Miller, the song unfolds slowly, culminating in shouts that urge the listener to “wake up feeling safe.” According to band guitarist/vocalist Gage Lyons, “Something very important to Huckleberry Binge is authenticity. We want to assure everyone that we are, in fact, four weirdos writing and playing rock music.”
Ten years ago a group of Italians left their homeland for Boston’s Berklee College of Music. The octet specializes in music from Napoli and points south. Listeners are treated to soaring operatic voices, wild tarantella cadences, lyrical canzones, and madrigal-like material largely drawn from the Renaissance. It is not, however, “ancient music” as the term is used in classical music. Newpoli are keenly aware that Neapolitans were/are not known for devotion to decorum, that the tarantella is an up-tempo (6/8 and 18/8) folk dance, and that peasants sang as lustily as opera singers. You’ll also hear Arabic and Greek influences in arrangements in which piccolo shares musical space with violins, accordions are as dignified (or not) as flutes, and tambourines give contrabass a run for its percussive money. Newpoli ensured unstuffy freshness by recording tracks live in an acoustically balanced Swampscott church. This reviewer accepts no responsibility for those who shed shoes, suits, and inhibitions while partaking of it.