The Joy Formidable defies sophomore slump


By Ilana Berger, Fact Checker

 If Muse and Arcade Fire had a baby, it would be Welsh indie rock band: The Joy Formidable. The band released their second album, Wolf’s Law, Jan 21.  Singer and guitarist Bryan Ritzy, drummer Matt Thomas and bassist Rhydian Dafydd released their first album, The Big Roar, in 2011 and turned heads with hit song “Whirring.”

Wolf’s Law is no disappointment, contrary to the dreaded sophomore slump stereotype. Perhaps inspired by Muse’s album, The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, Wolff’s Law (changed cleverly to Wolf’s Law due to the wolf on the cover) refers to the medical law that bones can change their internal structure depending on their function. Wolff’s Law is largely why bones are so resilient and can handle so much stress.

Wolf’s Law has an interesting mix of tracks throughout, and The Joy Formidable experiments with different sounds from gripping to bittersweet. The album makes a grand entrance with hit song “This Ladder Is Ours. Irresistibly catchy, the song starts out with strings that create a sense of excitement and bursts into an ingeniously crafted tempo that only The Joy Formidable could achieve.

On the heavier, punk side of the album are two triumphs “Cholla” and “Little Blimp. “Cholla” has an eerie piano intro that blasts off into loud ferocious distorted guitar riffs—a real knockout. Although every bit as breathtaking as “This Ladder Is Ours,” these two tracks are less memorable.

Similar to “Cholla,” Ritzy and Dafydd go more hardcore in “Little Blimp,” launching distorted guitar riffs left and right. “Bats” is a little less intimidating and more clean-cut pop, but it still shows off Ritzy’s confident vocals—she even nails a little scream before falling into a rather unoriginal riff. Nevertheless, it’s definitely up there on the list of female indie anthems.

By far the most daring, ridiculous song on the album, “Maw Maw Song” could be featured in a really well done ad for meow mix. Call it stupid, but no one can deny that the chorus is epic, and it sounds a bit like an indie version of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”  “Maw Maw Song” seems to just keep going and going, and the beautiful thing is that it actually works.

The versatility of Wolf’s Law shows in two softer tracks, “The Turnaround” and “Silent Treatment.” Ritzy brings out her tender side in “Silent Treatment” as she serenades with only acoustic guitars. Though simple, the song is certainly satisfying because of her calm voice and the beautiful lyrics, “I’ll take the silent treatment off your hands unbeaten/I’ll take the easy sequence/ Less people, more freedom.”

The one must-hear song on Wolf’s Law has to be “Leopard and the Lung. Reminiscent of Arcade Fire, the intro holds the ears captive with choppy piano accompanied by the flow of Thomas’s drums—in and out like the waves. After nailing the fast-slow, loud-soft tempo of the song with flawless timing, everything that followed fell right into place in the most perfect way. The secret ingredient however, was the incredible explosions of fearless guitar and fluttering piano after every quiet part.

The song is a tribute to Kenyan Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who was known for her environmental activism. “Leopard and the Lung” couldn’t be more true to the cause. Every burst of sound is like forgetting how sun shines through the treetops and rediscovering it over and over again.

Last but not least is “The Turnaround,” a smart choice as the last track. Unlike all of the other tracks, “The Turnaround’s” melancholy violin and chorus is something of a slow dance that should end with a passionate kiss, but is instead infused with the quirky edge of The Joy Formidable.

If this triumph is their sophomore album, the band has certainly set high expectations. As long as they keep producing albums as good as Wolf’s Law, they should have a bright future.