These days, it's somewhat unusual for a sophomore album to effectively portray a band's desired direction. On The Joy Formidable's second album, Wolf's Law
we can see precisely where these grunge-hearted rockers' heads are turned. Named after the medical theory that bones possess the capability to adapt accordingly to circumstances, Wolf's Law
succeeds in exemplifying the band's capability to adapt to a wide range of sound.
The album starts off with "This Ladder is Ours." The track rolls out with a slow, haunting symphonic intro of high-pitched strings that wastes no time. Jumping right into 90s garage chord progressions, Ritzy Bryan (whose voice also oozes nineties goodness) pulls you in: "Let's take this walk, it's overdue."
"Cholla," the pre-released single from the album gets a little more electronic, but in an accomplished, lighter Le Tigre effect. Between Bryan's whispers and echoes, you can simultaneously grasp the speedy guitars and soak it all in without getting lost. But, it's sort of strange to hear the hook to "Little Blimp" and wonder why that wasn't released as the single. Their time spent touring with Muse is apparent on this track, sending the song into a frenzy of loud, swallowing guitar symphonies.
One of Wolf's Law's
shining moments occurs during the acoustic ballad "Silent Treatment." Bryan's voice, strikingly similar to those of Tegan and Sara, tells of an acceptance and a reassurance. Until this point, the Formidable's effectiveness in sound didn't have to direct people to the words and their meaning.
The album's most enticing track is "Maw Maw Song." It possess a heavy, arena rock quality -- mildly haunting but irrevocably unyielding. "Maw Maw Song" to Wolf's Law
is precisely "Little Black Submarines" to El Camino
. The dynamics are all there, etching themselves into your head and leaving you with an anthem feel. Rhydian Dafydd's guitars in the bridge are tenacious -- not submitting to speed or accuracy, but focusing on both.
As if the meaning behind Wolf's Law
wasn't unpredictable enough, one of the final tracks "The Leopard and the Lung" pays tribute to the late Wangari Maathai, the beloved political activist and environmentalist from Kenya. It's a quirky and beautiful tribute. The Joy Formidable inhibit this magnetic aura between their words and sounds that's done so with great confidence.
Full of shimmering zest and a brand of their own, The Joy Formidable's sophomore album is more than an effort, it's a clear cut progression from good to great.
is out now via Atlantic