The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law
Record Label: Atlantic Records
Release Date: January 22nd, 2013
In the latter half of 2012, Welsh trio The Joy Formidable released a double single entitled This Ladder Is Ours, and I managed to download it for free because I had some free credit on Amazon MP3 (which seems to happen a lot). I downloaded the double single, which included the tracks “This Ladder Is Ours,” and “Cholla,” and I was very intrigued. I had never listened to the band beforehand, so I was quite interested in listening to these songs. And I was pleasantly surprised by with what I heard – guitar-driven and female-fronted indie-rock, and very solid indie-rock at that. The double single made me very excited for their sophomore record Wolf’s Law. I did a bit of research, and Wolf’s Law refers to a medical theory in which a bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt while doing certain activities, mainly playing sports. If you take that theory and apply it to this record, the backbone of this band has adapted as they’ve been making music. If the double single (which are the first two songs from this record) was any indication of how this record would turn out, it was mostly right. There are lots of great moments on here, but there are plenty of moments on here that are still rather “generic” or just make me scratch my head. This is a very strange band, but not in an entirely bad way. They’re an indie-rock band that could easily achieve success that other bands in their genre that have garnered, but they have lots of influences thrown throughout this record, and maybe too much at times. Some songs are absolutely fantastic, and others are just rather average, and generic. With that being said, the whole album is quite interesting, and despite being 53 minutes (with a few rough spots), it’s a great record.
As I mentioned, the record begins with the first two singles “This Ladder Is Ours” and “Cholla,” and when I reviewed this tracks last year, I really enjoyed them. The former is a five-minute indie-rock darling, and starts off the album quite nicely. It begins with a violin that makes me rather excited for it to start, and when vocalist Ritzy Bryan begins singing, I immediately get a feel for the band, and their overall sound. Her vocals are not the best I’ve ever heard, but for the genre she’s in, and comparing to the rest of the band’s sound, her voice works quite well. This is a track that works quite well, and I was really excited for this record when the song first came out, because it hinted a lot of potential. Second song, and the second song on the double single “Cholla,” is a more guitar-driven song that’s about three and a half minutes, but it really demonstrates the band’s more straightforward sound. The same goes for the first track as well, and these two tracks together work quite well, and set the record off to a very nice start. Basically, these two tracks really encompass both sides of the band – “This Ladder Is Ours” is a rather experimental indie-pop track while “Cholla” is straightforward indie-rock that’s “loud,” for the lack of a better word. This band is a rather abrasive one, meaning that their sound is pretty huge; some songs have a very “stadium rock” sound, in the same vein as U2 or Muse. But to counteract that, they do have songs that are a bit softer as well. It’s a really interesting mix of stuff.
The next few tracks really hit, and continue to take the orchestral indie-rock that “This Ladder Is Ours” had. It’s still rather straightforward, but does really show off the band, and Bryan’s vocals. Fourth track “Little Blimp” really picks up where “Cholla” left off in the sense that it’s loud, abrasive, and really short. It’s a great track, which can’t be said for next track “Bats.” This track is one of the stranger tracks on the record, mainly because it doesn’t make sense. This track seems SO out of place compared to everything I just heard. The lyrics are repetitive, but not in a good way, either. They just kind of force it on you, the listener, to the point where it just gets grating. Thankfully, next track “Silent Treatment,” acts like “Bats” never happened, and it sounds absolutely beautiful. This is much slower track, with an acoustic guitar to serve as the backbone, and it really works. Sadly, however, “Maw Maw Song” kind of turns the album sour again; this is one of the longer songs on the record, and while it’s not a truly awful song, it follows in the same footsteps as “Bats.” The song is also named for the sound the guitar riff in the chorus makes, too, and in all honesty, this song just tries way too hard to sound “different.” What’s weird about this song is that the latter half of the song turns into a pseudo-metal song, and it just falls really flat. It’s not a truly awful track, but it just seems too awkward. Songs like these are forgivable compared to songs like “Forest Serenade,” “The Leopard and the Lung,” and last track “The Turnaround.” These are my favorite tracks on the record, hands down. They all take everything I love about this band and roll it into one. Every track that seems to be a bit out of place is forgivable, because those few strange moments are worth it. This band doesn’t want to change the genre of indie-rock in any way, but just make loud, soaring songs that are just absolutely fantastic to listen to. The songs that do work really work, and in terms of a sophomore slump, this definitely isn’t one. I’m quite excited to hear what else the band has to put out with in the future. The year has only just begun, but this could possibly be a record that does show up on my end of the year list.