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The Big Roar - The Joy Formidable

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Genre: Indie Rock & Punk / Artist: The Joy Formidable / CD / Audio CD released 2011-01-24 at Atlantic

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      10.09.2011 22:57
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      Brilliant!

      This album represents an end to months of searching on my part. After hearing 'A Heavy Abacus' some time ago I frantically tried to Google lyrics and anything I could think of to find out who the band was! After having no luck with remembering the words and nobody in the world seeming to be able to recognise the song from my dodgy attempts at humming the tune I heard the same voice whilst flicking through the music channels on TV and after a couple of minutes wait I finally discovered the bands name. And thankfully, after listening to the remainder of the album I wasn't disappointed.

      The best word to describe how this band sound would be BIG! After giving them a few listens I was amazed to find out that there are only 3 band members. I have never seen the band live so I'm unsure as to how they actually perform the songs but they sound massive, dense and heavy. Not heavy like metal, although certain parts, especially the drumming are influenced by this, but they are loud and ambitiously reaching towards epic tracks.

      The band's first release was an EP, 'A Balloon Called Moaning' in February 2009 and this contained 8 tracks, 4 of which eventually made It onto 'The Big Roar' which was released in January 2011.

      'The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie' opens and the crashing drums, heavy guitars and a big bass set the tone for the rest of the album. The lyrics seem to be about loneliness or feeling that nobody cares and after 6.20 the tempo completely changes and the music gets faster and faster until it fizzles out. This is a great start to the album.

      'The Magnifying Glass' is a punkier affair and is reminiscent of a heavier Subways. The pace goes up a notch and the lyrics are concerned with being unable to live without someone. It's possibly the simplest song on the album and lacks the layers of the other songs. Quality stuff though.

      'I Don't Want to See You Like This' starts with an almost military parade style drum beat which continues through the rest of the track. Something that is evident and characteristic is lack of true choruses. The songs often evolve and are more than the usual verse-chorus-verse style of most bands.

      'Austere' begins sounding something like Temper Trap and the backing vocals continue in the same vein. It was released as a single and seems to be about saving or being saved by someone. As with many of the tracks on the album it has a comparatively lengthy outro which builds to a crescendo and often morphs into a seemingly different song.

      Next up is 'A Heavy Abacus' which is the track that got me (belatedly) into the band. The song is only 3.40 long but it feels as though it's an epic. Lyrically it's dreamy and abstract but musically it's immediately powerful and huge and just a fantastic song. Words like 'Abacus Haunting Me; Abacus watching me' may point towards a wish to avoid logic or normality.

      'Whirring' is a single and this was the song that I recognised the voice from. It begins sounding similar to Sigur Ros but ends up as a great pop song with the second half of the track an instrumental where the tempo gets quicker and quicker and heavier. I would guess that the single will be edited because it's 6.47 long but I may be wrong and it would be a shame to do so. Lyrically it's about something that keeps you awake at night, possibly worry, possibly pain - I'm not sure but it's another brilliant song on an album full of them.

      'Buoy' is one of the weaker songs on the album. The singing is drowned out by the music and as a result the lyrics are difficult to decipher. In addition, it doesn't flow as well as many of the other tracks on the album.

      'Maruyama' seems out of place on the album. At less than 2 minutes it never gets going as the song consists of nothing more than a sparse keyboard and a jangly guitar with slow singing on top of it. It almost sounds as though it should be an intro but then the main part of the song never arrives. Interlude is probably the word.

      'Cradle' comes next and vocally it reminds of Tegan And Sarah for any of you who know that band. More abstract lyrics but the song exudes energy and has a great melody and is one of the high points on the record.

      In 'Llaw = Wall' the regular female vocalist takes a break and lets a male have the limelight for a few minutes. The first couple of minutes are very downbeat and the vocal are almost under the breath but the song then explodes after a few seconds of silence and normal service is resumed. The song seems to be about people putting barriers up between themselves and others.

      'Chapter 2' is another punkier song with a chorus that sounds like Billy Talent(of 'Try Honesty' minor fame!) and is about different phases(chapters) of your life and how one finishes another starts.

      'The Greatest Light is The Greatest Shade' finishes the album off and it's very repetitive with references to dreaming which is something that crops up regularly on the album. It's a great end to the album and it's suitably euphoric.

      Overall, this is a fantastic debut album and the scope is different to what just about any other band is doing right now. The fact that this is a debut album is in itself astonishing. Well worth investigating.

      *This review is my own work although I may post it elsewhere on the internet.

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