Opening with an eerie, cinematic quality, The Joy Formidable’s “Wolf’s Law” seemed to promise an album full of dramatic crescendos and new heights.
Only it doesn’t.
The soundtrack-esque opener for the first song, “The Ladder Is Ours,” is a tease for The Joy Formidable’s sophomore release.
The Welsh trio had indie rock fans going bonkers for its songs “Austere” and “Whirring” from debut album “The Big Roar,” but the single on the newest album, “The Ladder Is Ours,” is essentially a continuation from the band’s last album, with little originality from its predecessor.
“Tendons” doesn’t push new barriers either. The first, second and third songs mesh into one another, forming a jumbled lump of energetic yet predictable indie music.
Lead singer Ritzy Bryan’s vocals, while melodic, come up short next to other female rock singers. She doesn’t have the range or punch like Karen Orzolek from Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She lacks the dreamy, whimsical quality of artists like Nanna BryndÃs HilmarsdÃ³ttir from Of Monsters and Men.
“Wolf’s Law” just seemed second best in an arena with a lot of other choices.
The album picked up halfway through. Beginning with track six, “Silent Treatment,” The Joy Formidable began to find its groove. The acoustic track stood alone in the sea of generic indie tunes. It is intimate and personal, and the only indication of the band’s growth since its debut album.
The gem of the album by far is “Maw Maw Song.” The Asian chimes and unique chorus line are solid and are then topped off by the superb guitar solo ripping through the latter half of the track.
“Forest Serenade” has nice, rising vocals throughout the song.
Yes, the orchestra swells in all the right places and none of the music is bad, but none of it is great either. Most of the tracks begin with strong opening riffs that the rest of the track just doesn’t live up to.
What would have made this album better was if The Joy Formidable had done some serious self-evaluation and chopped off the first half of the album.
Is the album well made? Sure. Will it gross millions on its tour? Probably. But none of the songs lived up to what fans deserved of the long-awaited second album.