The Welsh trio’s second release straddles the line between edgy and gentle, creating some of the most interesting music I’ve heard in a while. The eleven track album is wonderfully weird. After the first listen, I felt like a character in a fantasy land, due to the whimsical feeling and the blare of the unexpected along the way.
From the opening track, ‘This Ladder is Ours’, it is easy to distinguish the opposites playing against each other. The introduction is symphonic, and creates the auditory impression that the song will follow in. Then, the loud rock chords come crashing at the door, and the song is driven forward with that edginess. This, mixed with the melodic, wailing vocals of singer Ritzy Bryan, creates a brilliant duality in the music.
The rest of the album carries this dichotomy along for the next fifty-three minutes. Bryan’s steadily haunting voice dips into the shoegazing arena, but is reined back into the alt-rock field by the pounding presence of the guitars, bass and percussion. The track listing is like the musical equivalent of walking through a carnival funhouse: there is a surprise at every turn.
‘Tendons’ displays beautiful imagery in its lyrics, while ‘The Silent Treatment’ is a more ethereal, indie pop showcase, complete with acoustic guitars. The best song on the album may very well be ‘Maw Maw Song’, which fully exhibits the contrast of this collection. It has an Eastern Oriental motif, joined with the intensity of rock influences, and it sounds incredible. It draws comparisons to New Wave bands from decades ago, and just like the beloved Siouxsie and the Banshees, this group has paired two seemingly contradictory sounds together expertly.
All in all, this album is a platform for true artistry. With the diversity of the instruments, the strength of the vocals and the straddling of genres, it seems that The Joy Formidable will keep getting better with age. Their strange and seductive spell has been cast, and although it won’t enchant everyone with its peculiar ambiance, it is guaranteed to incite a wide array of reactions.