It’s been a few hard years in the making, but The Joy Formidable have finally released their debut album after periods of being a continual support band and numerous teasers on their MySpace site. Now after listening to their scuzzy yet dreamy take on indie-rock they seem to have moved into the realms of epic stadium-worthy tunes.
The strangest thing about listening to The Big Roar is that despite all the use of wall-of-sound and the noise generated from it, there’s a real intimate heart buried underneath it all. Searching for this heart turns out to be the most rewarding part of spinning this a few times – though you’ll probably already be acquainted with a fair few of the gems on offer here. ‘Cradle’ and ‘Austere’, brilliant as they are, have been circulating around for a while and it almost seems like laziness to include songs like these that featured on their mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning. But whatever people might say about this decision, it’s not laziness and it’s not simply a mistake – these songs sit beautifully with the overall feel of The Big Roar and taking them out of there would somehow be counterproductive.
Elsewhere, opener ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie’ sounds almost like Sonic Youth in its use of distorted guitars and the clatter of random noises that kick-start it. ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’ shows off the band’s ability to create a classic lighters-in-the-air moment as it slows the album to a halt with frontwoman Ritzy Bryan’s softer intonations. But always there’s the heart that is so often missing in stadium-ready rock: here demonstrated by ‘Llaw=Wall’, melancholy moment that sounds at first out of place but its purpose on the record is an important one: it shows that The Joy Formidable have their feet planted firmly in the ground, not reaching impossibly for greatness.
The Big Roar is the satisfying, epic record we always hoped The Joy Formidable would produce. Yes, you could criticise them for not making more fresh material but when you hear how this is about as near to a perfect rock record as you could get, it’s easy to forgive these apparent shortcomings. Expect big things for the future.
The Big Roar is out now on Atlantic Records. You can listen to ‘Austere’ below: