As opposed to the previous acts for Tunes Test Tuesday posts, I had no idea what to expect when I went looking for trakcs by The Joy Formidable. Someone on Twitter suggested them to me when I first asked for recommendations (thanks!), and I chose it one for this week because it came with the advice that I should start with something simple.
At this point, though, I’m not sure The Joy Formidable is simple.
The Joy Formidable is a UK (in this case that’s the United Kingdom, kids, not the University of Kentucky) group that formed in Wales in 2007. Apparently, they drew heavily from "noisy alt-rock" and something called "shoegaze"* to form their new sound.
While I’ll certainly agree that TJF’s sound fits very well with my thinking of noisy alt-rock, I’ll be the first to tell you that I have no earthly idea what "shoegaze" is supposed to mean.
It brings to mind some wallflower emo teen staring at his shoes and trying to hide.
And that’s not what I think of when listen to their work.
Most of the music from The Joy Formidable somewhat aggressive and driving, but not overly so. In other words, I can feel it, there’s some metal foundation in there, but it doesn’t make cringe. By and large, it sounds well-produced, but whereas last week’s group, The Black Keys, were almost exclusively guitar-and-drums, we’ve got quite a range of instrumentation and electronics at work here. To some degree, it reminds me a little of Garbage circa Version 2.0, but then again, I’m not sure I’m musically adept enough to make comparisons. There’s a bit of symphonic sense about it, too.
The vocals, mostly handled by Ritzy Bryan, often have something of a choral aspect layered in the with driving alt-rock lines. It’s like…well, have you seen The Fifth Element? In a weird kind of way, they’re reminiscent of what you’d get from the Diva Plavalaguna if her whole show had been amped up to 11 with a louder, more computer-driven alt-y score.
The bottom line is that I very much enjoyed The Joy Formidable, and I’d love to see them play live. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how often I’ll listen to them day to day. The way the tracks are laid down, the music drowns out the vocals at lower volumes. That’s great for the overall effect, but it’s not so good for me, because while it may not be the case with everyone, I need to be able to hear the lyrics.
Words are kind of important to me, you know.
The problem, then, is that with the volume up high enough to really hear everything, it’s too loud to just be in the background. In fact, in order to really do it justice while listening this week for the Tunes Test Tuesday post, I had to break out the earphones at work.
I hate the earphones.
The point here is I’d never be able work on software – let alone write anything – while listening to "The Big Roar", the first (and so far, only) full-length album from The Joy Formidable. That said, it would be an awesome album to crank up in the car or around the house while giving the family room a minimal enough cleaning to appease the Puddinet—err—your wife.
Was The Joy Formidable "starting simple"? Well, not really, but I don’t know that anything would have been. What I do know is that either way, it was a great place to start. With familiar but not derivative musical roots (not matter what "shoegaze" is) and choral-yet-still-kinda-pop vocals, it’s a lot of fun and a great overall listen. I’m kind of sad I can’t go crank it up in the car right now, actually.
If you’re looking for something that begs to be loud, you’d do well looking here.
And if you’re not looking for something like that, well, why not?
*Reference from Spotify’s Biography page for the group.