I’ve been going through an unexpected phase in my music consumption lately. Whereas a year ago I was listening to a lot of hardcore punk with a bounty of guitars, drums and screaming. Over the past couple months it’s been more post-punk, dream pop and shoegazing. Based on what I’ve been listening to, the Spotify gremlins (some say it’s an algorithm) have been dropping some great music from The Joy Formidable into my playlists. When I heard they were releasing a new album, Into The Blue, on August 20, 2021 I jumped at the opportunity to review it.
Based in North Wales, but recently half-relocating to Utah, The Joy Formidable is a three piece made up of singer/guitarist Rhiannon (Ritzy) Bryan, bassist/vocals Rhydian Dafydd and drummer Matt Thomas. Musically the album is all over the place with the band jumping from shoegaze, punk, theatrical, acoustic to almost anything else. It works. While the change in genre can be a bit jarring at times, there’s enough similarities to keep the listener engaged and every song on the album is strong enough to stand on its own.
The overall theme of the album is to find the good and beauty in things despite what’s going on around you. The band says, “It’s about opening your eyes to beauty and love again. Making it to the other side. Whilst not conceived as a metaphor for the times we all live in now, it certainly turned out that way.”
The album opens with the title track, “Into the Blue.” It’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from the band: A poppy, jaunty song with Ritzy singing beautifully. I love her voice and the overall feel of the song. Shifting from the pop-feeling opening track, “Chimes” moves into more of a punk feel with the driving guitar and bass lines. Then on the next track “Sevier,” the band uses guitar and vocal effects to change the sound again.
“Gotta Feed My Dog” is an interesting song — with Bryan whisper-singing, it feels like she’s letting the listener into a secret. Mid-song there’re some interludes that remind me of Kate Bush. Thomas’ use of cymbals throughout portions of the song gives it an urgent feeling. During the 5:19, the listener is taken on a journey; it feels likes this song can be extended into an entire play full of drama, love and loss.
On “Somewhere New,” Dafydd takes the lead vocals over a beautifully played acoustic guitar; I can picture him sitting under a single spotlight on an otherwise dark stage singing. Throughout the album, i felt like I was on a musical journey. The songwriting paints wonderful pictures taking the listener into the world of The Joy Formidable.
To further connect with fans, the band has created the TJF Music Club. Launched in 2018, TJF Music Club gives fans access to exclusive music, online shows and much more, forging part of a much needed new culture of direct artist support which they hope other artists could follow to empower themselves. TJF Music Club has also become a cherished way of connecting with fans while touring has ceased and yet flourishes beyond.
TAGS: The Joy Formidable