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The Joy Formidable, ‘Wolf’s Law’ – Album Review

Joy Formidable
Canvasback Music / Atlantic Records

The Welsh trio the Joy Formidable opened their 2011 debut album with a nearly eight-minute guitar eruption that fell somewhere between an assault and a seduction. ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie’ was the highlight of ‘The Big Roar,’ but it certainly wasn’t the album’s only killer track. Between the dream-pop haze and frontwoman Ritzy Bryan’s sweet coos mixed with her sour guitar fits, the LP deftly somersaulted through eras of indie rock.

The band sounds no less charged on the follow-up album, ‘Wolf’s Law,’ which pretty much just amps up everything you liked about ‘The Big Roar’ and filters it through an endless swirl of aggressive guitar noise and peachy pop. Nothing here strikes as hard or as immediate as ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie,’ but ‘Wolf’s Law’ is a more consistent album, rolling through its dozen songs with an organized chaos that borders on grace.

The opening ‘This Ladder Is Ours’ begins with an orchestra of synths that heralds something grand approaching, before it takes a brief menacing turn. And then the guitars bust through the pretense like a ray of sunshine, illuminating the song with hope, electricity and a sense that the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘10s are all connected by some sort of post-rock current.

The rest of the album shuffles similar guitar workouts (like on the pulsating ‘Cholla’) with naked ballads (‘Silent Treatment’). It’s not always a seamless mix – the Joy Formidable are better at guitar dissonance than tuned-down meditation. And Bryan is better at howling over the barrage of distorted sonic wreckage than playing pretty with pop delicacy.

But on songs like ‘Tendons’ and the spray-painting ‘Little Blimp,’ they pull it all together for a record that splatters the landscape with distorted beauty and discreetly tricky pop riffs. It’s occasionally epic (see ‘Maw Maw Song’ and ‘The Leopard and the Lung’); it’s occasionally lazy (‘Bats’). But throughout, the Joy Formidable spill ‘Wolf’s Law’’s guitar guts for their, and our, pleasure.

7 out of 10 rating


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