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The Big Roar

The Joy Formidable: The Big Roar

  • The Joy Formidable
  • Alternative & Indie
  • Out now
  • Atlantic
  • Everywhere
reviewed by
Will Roth
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The Joy Formidable: The Big Roar

There are various
theories on how a band should structure an album. Some critics like to see a bell-curve kind of
energy distribution, while others prefer to see a group start off with their
most intense tracks and play off that vibe for the rest of the record. On their debut album, The Joy Formidable
turns that model on its head, beginning The
Big Roar
with a minute of bizarre, apparently random ambient noise,
and finishing the album with the most memorable single to date. 

The Joy Formidable fits
neatly into two visible trends in the contemporary rock scene.  First, the band consists of only a few
people, with an awesome female singer on the microphone. Second, the band sounds like it consists of
twice as many people as it actually does, making use of electronic synthesizers
to create chorus-like background melodies that hide the fact it’s still music
created by the classic, bare-bones, guitar-bass-drums line-up.

The Big Roar boasts a handful of notable hits. A couple of the best songs, such as ‘Austere’ and ‘Whirring’ appeared previously on
the band’s eight-track teaser record A
Balloon Called Moaning
. Of the brand
new tracks, the most original are probably ‘Heavy Abascus’ and ‘Llaw = Wall’, which
is also one of the only tracks to feature a second vocalist in addition to Ritzy
Bryan. Once it gets going, even the leadoff
track, ‘The Ever-changing Spectrum of Lie’ is a highlight that comes in at an
even 7.5 minutes. 

Still, as mentioned
earlier, it is actually the finale of the twelve-song album,’The Greatest
Light is the Greatest Shade’ that strikes out as the catchiest, best produced
single. After a couple of listens, good
luck getting the refrain of ‘This dream is/ This dream is/ This dream is in a
telescope now’ out of your head.  It’s no
coincidence that this song also mixes the best elements of the album as a
whole: heavy background chords and drums covered with a pop hook and stadium
rock effects.  

Bryan, The Joy
Formidable’s lead singer, is one-part Emily Haines (Metric) and one-part Billy
Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins). Combined
with guitar progressions that would not be out of place on 90s albums such as Melancholy, The Joy Formidable’s music sounds
like other female-led bands such as Metric and The Jezabels; but with more angst injected.

Overall, The Big Roar is a strong debut
full-length record for a group that is certain to get more press and attention
as they tour and lay down more songs in the studio. The worst thing about the record is actually
that it occasionally sounds under-produced; the band seems to have settled for
simple, mediocre effects where they could have spent more time innovating. For this reason in particular, The Big Roar does not reach the
groundbreaking level of some other acts in the genre, but is enough to leave
fans eagerly awaiting their follow-up recording.

Like This? Try

Metric, The Jezabels, Smashing Pumpkins

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