NO FEST | DAY 2

Speedy Ortiz

Attention came swiftly following Speedy Ortiz's 2012 Sports EP on the Boston-centric label Exploding In Sound, and with good reason. Massachusetts-based songwriter/guitarist Sadie Dupuis' knotty, lyrically dense songs were fully realized by her bandmates, with intricate guitar lines crisscrossing over Darl Ferm's fluid bass and Mike Falcone's precisely executed drumming in a way that was simultaneously catchy and jarring. After the success of its 2013 Best New Music-honored debut full-length Major Arcana, the band formalized its assault through a year and a half of relentless touring with bands in whose brainy-slash-brawny legacies it followed—among them Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Ex Hex, and The Breeders. In 2014, the band added guitarist Devin McKnight of the Boston-based post-punk group Grass Is Green, whose guitar parts both match and challenge Dupuis'.

Speedy Ortiz's second proper album—Foil Deer, recorded at Rare Book Room in Brooklyn when the band wasn't pushing forward on its hectic 2014 tour schedule—comes out on April 21, 2015. The songs represent a leap forward, possessing a lightness that mirrors Dupuis's post-grad school outlook; they also have a deliberate nature to them, one that emanates from extra studio time and more experimentation with the band's essential form. (Ferm contributes a few unexpected guitar parts; Falcone's vocal harmonies zing in with more force.) Speedy Ortiz possesses big-tent rock swagger and punk's restless yet intimate spirit in a way that makes the impulses seem identical; while the quartet can still command crowds at festivals like Primavera Sound and Pitchfork Music Festival, they also relish playing Boston's teeming basements alongside the city's next generation of bands. That willingness to push not just forward, but in all directions, makes Speedy Ortiz one of rock's most exciting outfits.

A punk band growing up is always a perilous proposition. A dicey gambit to be sure, but your Talking Heads, your Wires, your Sonic Youths and your Deerhunters were all scrappy young kids making sizeable rackets once upon a time. It was only after they decided to make poignantly observant, unexpectedly epochal rackets that they challenged and transcended the idea of what a punk band could be. This is precisely where we find Greys at the outset of their sophomore album, Outer Heaven.

The ten-song, 39-minute long player delivers on the promises the Toronto quartet made on 2015’s Repulsion EP, placing the band in more spacious environments and letting them build upon their noise rock foundation by incorporating new textures and dynamics to temper their trademark onslaught of discordance, which was already perfected on their debut record, 2014’s If Anything. Where their formative material saw them paying homage to their heroes, the new album sees Greys making a concentrated effort to realize their own sound. Whether that means employing tape drones, drum machines and synthesizers as noise-making tools on “Sorcerer,” or breaking into a three-part harmony adorned with sleigh bells in the middle of the hardcore intensity found on “In For A Penny,” these four young men prove that they are more than up for a challenge.

In a very literal way, singer/guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani has made it clear on this record that he wants his voice to be heard. Each song contains a sweet-and-sour earworm that brings his characteristically self-aware, often satirical lyrics to the forefront, and his serrated shout is almost entirely swapped for a more tuneful approach. Almost. Lyrically, his focus has sharpened, moving from inward to outward. This is best evident on first single “No Star,” wherein Jiwani addresses the aftermath of the shootings at Bataclan in Paris by declaring, “Don’t shoot/I’m not the enemy.”

“It’s difficult to feel like you have a voice in these situations when you’ve grown up in a predominantly white community and don’t identify with either side,” explains Jiwani. “On the one hand, some people are attacking anyone who looks remotely like you, but on the other hand, the people who are trying to defend you are also speaking on your behalf, taking away your voice. It’s like I had nowhere to turn because no one was listening to me, like I wasn’t able to speak for myself.”

Each song filters its subject matter through Jiwani’s wryly incisive perception of those topics, from a news story about a group of teens barbarically murdering their classmate on album opener “Cruelty,” to the advent of technological singularity on closer “My Life As A Cloud.” Elsewhere, on “Blown Out,” the frontman confronts his own mental health by painting it in the context of a relationship with a partner who doesn’t fully understand the unrelenting complexities of depression. The climax of the song sees him wailing, “I want you to see/There’s something wrong with me,” which would be a harrowing moment if it wasn’t the single catchiest song Greys have ever written.

With their intense live show documented admirably on their previous releases - and honed alongside bands like Death From Above 1979, Viet Cong, Speedy Ortiz, Cloud Nothings, Perfect Pussy and their Buzz Records brethren Dilly Dally - the four piece sought to explore their more atmospheric tendencies on Outer Heaven. Produced by longtime collaborator Mike Rocha at the hallowed Hotel 2 Tango studio in Montreal (Arcade Fire, Godspeed You! Black Emperor), the record displays unprecedented depth and range for Greys, calling to mind groups as disparate as Sonic Youth, Swell Maps and The Swirlies without ever losing sight of what defines the band - a distinct mixture of melody and dissonance, order and chaos, volume and substance.

Vallens

Robyn Phillips spent her early years in Toronto playing lead guitar in several bands. With an experience of performing and writing in various genres, Robyn began working on material for her first solo project as VALLENS in the summer of 2014. Taking cues from everything from Rowland S Howard to Portishead, the project began to take shape with a concept of “Vallens” as an alter-ego of Phillips. Soon after, Vallens began recording a full length record with friend Jeff Berner of Psychic TV at his now defunct studio Galuminum Foil in Brooklyn, followed by several months recording songs at Candle Recording with Josh Korody (Beliefs, Wish).
The project debuted live in December of 2015 and quickly captured the attention of music critics, promoters, and the local music scene. Vallens has since been Invited to perform at NXNE, POP Montreal, M for Montreal, and CMJ, in addition to sharing the stage with Frankie Cosmos, Freak Heat Waves, Porches, MOURN, Ringo Deathstarr, U.S Girls, A Place to Bury Strangers, and La Luz.

$12.00

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