Album Review: The Joy Formidable – Hitch

By on Friday, 1st April 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

It seems somehow fitting that I’m taking a quick break from TGTF’s ongoing coverage of SXSW 2016 to review the new album from Welsh alt-rockers The Joy Formidable. Our own editor Mary first introduced me to The Joy Formidable just over two years ago on the opening night of SXSW 2014, when the band played at Austin’s Clive Bar on what happened to be a rather wet and dreary evening. The rain could easily have put a damper on The Joy Formidable’s late set that night, but the venue was packed with eager fans, and Mary and I both felt fortunate to catch the band in what would be one of their last live gigs before they disappeared into the studio for a long stretch of writing and recording.

The product of that time away is The Joy Formidable’s new LP ‘Hitch’, which lead singer and guitarist Ritzy Bryan says is “one of the most driving records we’ve made but also the saddest”. Recorded and produced by the band themselves in their North Wales studio The Red Brick, the album was truly a labour of love for the Welsh trio, both emotionally and musically. They’ve taken a more streamlined musical approach with ‘Hitch’, but the emotional quality of the songs is undeniably cathartic, and the band themselves have described the album as “a good purge”.

Opening track ‘A Second in White’ starts things off with Bryan’s low-register voice murmuring over an ominous ostinato of guitars and drums, but the pace picks up almost immediately with the following track ‘Radio of Lips’. The sharp, concise lyrical lines in the verses lead to an irresistably anthemic chorus, and the drawn out anticipation in the bridge section is likely to make this one a live favourite on The Joy Formidable’s upcoming UK tour in May.

The album’s provocative first single ‘The Last Thing on My Mind’, whose video edit is featured in the tour date post referenced above, sounds both sullen and sultry, and like ‘Radio of Lips’ before it, stretches over 6 minutes long in the full album recording. Indeed many of the tracks on ‘Hitch’ are quite lengthy, as if the band’s major hang-up might have been in somehow finding closure to the whatever emotional drama surrounded the making of the album.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/QIMuVKHtooI[/youtube]

The first half of the album starts to drag a bit after the opening three tracks, wandering through more introspective tracks ‘Liana’ and ‘The Brook’ before regaining some momentum with the frenetic drum beat of ‘It’s Started’. Midway through the album, relatively shorter track ‘The Gift’ switches Bryan’s lead vocals for those of Dafydd, and perhaps it’s the contrast that makes Bryan’s vocals seem that much more on the album’s second half, especially as she sings the poignant line, “maybe we’re not alone after all” in ‘Fog (Black Windows)’.

‘Underneath the Petal’ is a rather gentler but still darkly dramatic affair that builds slowly in dynamic intensity and once again highlights the emotional quality of Bryan’s singing voice. ‘Blowing Fire’, by contrast, seethes intensity and spits resentment from beginning to end before the album closes with another soft, acoustic-tinged number. ‘Don’t Let Me Know’, which also happens to be the album’s longest track, spins slowly and elegantly into a climactic finale, or perhaps more accurately, into a heartfelt and bittersweet farewell.

While the songs themselves are a bit all over the shop, ‘Hitch’ makes up in variety and emotional power what it lacks in cohesion. Whatever emotional cleansing The Joy Formidable might have required was undoubtedly achieved in the album’s intense musical arrangements and lengthy instrumental interludes, but overall, the album feels dampened by the pressure of its own heavy emotional content.  Bringing the songs out of the studio and into live performance might be the impetus the band needs to complete its purge, once and for all.

7/10

The Joy Formidable’s third album ‘Hitch’ is out now on the band’s own label C’Mon Let’s Drift. TGTF’s full archive of coverage on The Joy Formidable is back this way.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required
 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us

Privacy Policy