Crossing genres in this new take on indie rock
Welsh rock band The Joy Formidable makes beautifully violent music, and their newest release AAARTH demands your attention with effortlessly engaging erraticism. Dramatically less pop-rock than their 2016 album Hitch, The Joy Formidable is expanding their sound by redefining a contemporary punk rock genre built on captivating musicality.
The music itself has an auditory aura, reflecting a multi-colored fantastical sequence of sounds. AAARTH compels listeners to withdraw from their mental isolation. Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan leads the band with her fierce voice and shredding guitar, with Rhydian Dafydd setting an intense bassline and Matthew James Thomas keeping a steady rock beat that will get you on your feet. With female vocals and inaudible impassioned lyrics, this band is refreshingly punk, while incorporating their own modern shoegaze, rock aspect.
“Y Bluen Eira” feels like a cult song, and Bryan’s unique voice easily gives this band an edge, her vocals muffled in production, adding an artificially mysterious effect. Sounds of nature with hints of Japanese-style riffs in “Cicada (Land on your Back)” are interrupted with grunge rock vocals and drums. Mellow vocals and muted instrumentals in “All In All” carry on softly for three and a half minutes, slowly reaching a faster tempo. The song builds tremendously, and the vocals become drowned out by anxiety-inducing guitar. The Joy Formidable seem to struggle with choosing a direction and sound because AAARTH forms an eclectic collection of songs that somehow piece together cohesively. This pseudo-psychotic approach to noise pop music really works for The Joy Formidable.
Like looking through a kaleidoscope, the sounds in AAARTH are distorted and constantly evolving into more complex combinations of music. “The Better Me” is the most appealing song on this album, with an oscillating melody that draws you in by the ears. The scratching of a guitar interrupts the soft sound of string instruments, the monotonal voice adding depth to the song. With a more pop-rock sound, this song experiments with pitch and tempo. Harmonic piano fixes the rhythm of the song in “Absence” like a rock ballad meant for a vocalist’s warmup tune.
“You Can’t Give Me” sounds like a potential music industry hit. Bryan’s vocals are distinct and carry on their own like a solid melody without needing any accompanying instrumentals. She flows into falsetto with lyrical passion, as her stringy guitar adds dynamic chord progressions. Dafydd’s bassline is steady and forgiving to the perfect chaos of the song, acting as the backbone of the song. Thomas on the drums with an inescapable beat, sometimes pausing in time for Byran’s vocals to break through this instrumentally appealing pandemonium for a brief solo. Unexplainably so, this song feels important because of the musical arrangements that weave together in instrumental order.
“Caught On A Breeze” has a simple clapping beat, with whispers of secrets that hide behind the guitar riffs. The listener is hypnotized by the metronome-like dinging. This song is rock-heavy, balancing the album with a strong finish. The Joy Formidable sounds original while using common rock concepts with popular melodic drumbeats and basslines. A chaotic combination of instruments, AAARTH dials in the hallucinatory aspects of psychedelic music. This album is almost as hard to comprehend as the album cover, flora and fauna intertwining as figures flow and contort into other images. The Joy Formidable continues to dramatize their eccentric musicality, never shying away from experimenting with the boundaries of the genre. AAARTH tiptoes right up to the line between post-punk and shoegaze and teeters between genres with technique and precision.