The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law
Record Label: Atlantic
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Ah, the sophomore slump. It's really strange that the term still even exists, considering that it's growing to be more and more uncommon among today's bands. The Joy Formidable is most definitely one of those bands. After 2011's excellent The Big Roar was released, the band had a pretty great year, seeing success with the rousing, almost 7-minute long "Whirring" and playing opening spots for Foo Fighters and Muse. Needless to say, expectations were set ridiculously high for the band's next move.
And on Wolf's Law, the trio more than blows those expectations out of the water.
Reportedly written while the band was snowed in in a cabin in Casco, Maine, the more intimate setting definitely shows on this album. The songs here are tighter, more cohesive, and (unsurprisingly) much louder than Roar. No, seriously, this album is really fucking loud. It's almost a crime to listen to this album at a low volume considering the unbelievable attention to detail within the songs, not to mention that the whole album is ridiculously catchy. It should be mentioned that The Joy Formidable, though having some emotional moments every now and then, is mostly about dumb, loud fun. That's not to say that their songs aren't emotional, but the songs are generally pretty fun and a bit goofy. On those fronts, Wolf's Law definitely delivers.
Opening with the surging and thrilling "This Ladder Is Ours," it's evident right from the get-go that Wolf's Law is a much more open, welcoming record than The Big Roar. It seems like the trio decided to throw in a few more straight-up rock numbers (such as the previous album's "The Magnifying Glass") this time around, with "Cholla," "Little Blimp," and "Bats," with the latter two being definite standout tracks (the bass line on "Little Blimp" is one of the catchiest damn riffs I've heard in years).
However, that's not to say the album is lacking in overblown epics. Tracks such as the aforementioned "This Ladder Is Ours," the downright beautiful "The Turnaround/Wolf's Law," and the surging "Forest Serenade." This is all without mentioning the album's shining moment, the Muse-like absolute batshit craziness of "Maw Maw Song." This beast of a tune frequently shifts time signatures, is led by one of the wackiest vocal hooks you'll hear this year, and features what is arguably frontwoman Ritzy Bryan's greatest in-studio guitar moment they've recorded thus far. The track placement is also worth mentioning here, as the complete aural assault of "Maw Maw" comes immediately after the album's quietest moment, the beautiful and jarringly acoustic "Silent Treatment." This surprisingly raw and emotional number lets Bryan's voice and lyricism shine through ("I'll take the silent treatment/Off your hands, uneven/I'll take the easy cynicism/less talking, more reason"), giving the listener a rare look into her voice when it isn't soaring over massive guitars.
To sum it up: this album is definitely worth your time and money. It's not stunningly different from The Big Roar, but it really doesn't have to be. The Joy Formidable isn't exactly a band that you process and analyze, but rather a band that you crank up to the maximum volume and rock the fuck out. On Wolf's Law, they definitely achieve that goal.
[Also, side note: this is my first review for the site, please don't be too harsh!]