Review: The Joy Formidable - "Wolf's Law"

Reviews

The Joy Formidable

Wolf's Law

By Constant Listener

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I reached for this album because of the cover art - a wolf with flowers growing out of its side lying in front of a glowing orange sunset. Then I noticed that the wolf appeared to be dead. Then I looked up the meaning of the album title, from which I learned something that I didn’t know before. I didn’t notice the hummingbird feeding on the dead wolf’s flowers until later. I found myself thinking about dynamics and about contrast as I listened to this album. The music, the lyrics, the album title, the cover art – everything, even the band name, seems to in some way reinforce a theme of opposing forces. But much of that can be set aside for the listener to discover or not, to care or not – the most important question remains – is this music worth purchasing? The answer to that question is yes. “This Ladder Is Ours” begins with a misleading Neil Diamond-esque string arrangement that morphs into a racing, rock opener that is alternately reeled in and cast free by lead singer Ritzy Bryan’s steady verses and liberating chorus. “Cholla” turns up the rock another notch, but right in the middle of slamming drums and a floor-vibrating guitar riff, a funny, bouncy little note skips rope for a minute. At the two-minute mark the song nearly falls asleep, then bursts to life again. “I can’t decide / one needs building / one needs digging / one needs filling in” Bryan sings memorably on “Tendons,” a song that contains both a growling, sludgy bass line and a moment of gentle, plink-plink reflection. “Little Blimp” only stokes the intensity with a high speed rubbery bass line and a few well-placed needling guitar flourishes, while “Bats” finds Bryan speak-singing with attitude, which eventually evolves into a driving repetition of the phrases “We keep hanging on” and “I had a reason but the reason went away.” But any time I listen to a record by a band that rocks I’m anxious for a slow song. The rocking band that delivers on the ballads is a little like the comedian who turns in an acclaimed dramatic performance (aren’t those always the best?). So I was glad to hear “Silent Treatment” – a sadly beautiful and reflective ballad wrapped in warm acoustic guitar – exactly halfway through the album. The song provides an effective transition from the in-your-face style of the first half, to the more introspective, experimental, and equally memorable second half of the record – which is where I’ll leave you to discover the rest for yourself…