The Joy Formidable: Wolf’s Law
There’s a realm of music that rests comfortably between pop, rock, and folk. Bands like Radiohead, Florence and the Machine, Muse, and The Sounds can be found here in addition to The Joy Formidable. The niche groups like these occupy is one of quality, innovation, and occasional excess. The Joy Formidable’s newest record Wolf’s Law, clearly embodies the above mentioned aspects, channeling their full creative breadth into a rather captivating record.
The album opener, “This Ladder is Ours” begins with a highly orchestrated intro (obviously done with keyboards) that builds into a catchy opening riff. This was a fair way to open the record, but the song itself holds up poorly compared to the rest of the record, ending up as a lively, if rather forgettable track. “Cholla” on the other hand is incredibly infectious, its chunky riffs accented by a thumping bass line and aggressive drums. There was a very welcome progressive quality on this song that pervades much of the album, elevating what could have been simple pop songs to epic-rock levels. Bryan’s vocals are gorgeous throughout, especially the backing coos and moans.
The third song “Tendons” is a fairly accessible ballad that really resembles Florence’s grandiose compositions with rumbling drums and occasional harp flourishes. I dug the chorus and the quieter moments on this one, but overall it felt rather generic. “Little Blimp” is much stronger, moving back into the heavy-hitting territory of “Cholla”. The intensity is kept throughout by the bass and drums while the guitar part delivers several gnarly, Jack White-style solos. This song is paired with the moody, intimidating venture “Bats” which oscillates between gut crunching heaps of instrumentation and distorted vocals that reminded me a little of Deerhoof.
A rather subdued track, “Silent Treatment” comes next, giving the album a healthy break in between its two halves. The album quickly roars back to life with the far east-inspired “Maw Maw Song”. More than most of the others, this song blisters with progressive rock elements, boasting several rhythmic changes and powerful melodies. The breakdown/extended solo section is pretty radical and would be a treat to witness live. Drummer Matt Thomas rules this track with his immense, well measured drumming style, keeping the whole ridiculous mess well-grounded.
Though still measuring more than four minutes, “Forest Serenade” feels like a bright little pop song after “Maw Maw Song”. The session string musicians really boost the atmosphere on this track, augmenting Bryan’s tender, beautiful voice with harmonic brilliance. A spectacularly explosive finale helps makes this one of the best tracks on the album, and a clear candidate for a live set-closer. The album’s final track, “The Turnaround” is another fairly laid back tune, which gives the album a good sense of closure. Once again the string musicians really lift the vocals, especially during the operatic choruses. The album’s title track lies hidden following “The Turnaround”. “Wolf’s Law” is dominated by Bryan’s caressing voice and a well-paced piano part that eventually allows for the rest of The Joy Formidable to crash into being and finish the album spectacularly.
While far from a new sound, The Joy Formidable manages to take a lot of influential elements and blend them into a truly enjoyable listen. A few of the weaker tracks could be considered throwaways, but they all manage to charm in some way through strong composition and lush instrumentation. If you’ve never heard The Joy Formidable and you enjoy music that makes you feel good, I would strongly suggest giving them a shot.
MP3: The Joy Formidable “Cholla”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl