Arts

The Joy Formidable

Wolf’s Law | Atlantic

4.5 / 5

WALES, A COUNTRY whose musical talents are primarily considered to be folk, has been slowly but steadily producing more rock outfits in the past two decades with acts like Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals becoming critical darlings. Since 2007, The Joy Formidable have been turning heads with their brand of melodic, noise-infused alt-rock, ultimately culminating in their aptly-titled 2011 debut album The Big Roar, an incredible release that harkened to the glory days of ‘90s alternative rock. The band finally hunkered down and hooked up with popular mixer Andy Wallace (Nirvana, among many others) to assist with their highly anticipated sophomore effort.

On Wolf’s Law, The Joy Formidable demonstrate exactly how to make a second album, expanding on their already established sound but not straying too far from what made them famous. The band tones down their My Bloody Valentine-esque noise on numerous tracks and pushes melody, as well their folk influences to the forefront like never before. While heavy rockers like “Bats” and “Maw Maw Song” are some of the band’s most powerful numbers (especially considering the latter’s endless guitar solos), songs like the mostly acoustic “Silent Treatment” and the epic “The Leopard and the Lung” (quite possibly their finest track) show their willingness to evolve and develop their sound.

The Joy Formidable are arguably one of, if not the best, mainstream rock bands around today, and it’s  fortunate that Wales was willing to share them with the rest of the world.

—Max Szyc

Ochre

National Ignition | Self-released

3.5 / 5

CHRISTOPHER LEARY, UNDER the moniker Ochre, has been recording and releasing electronic music since 2001. After signing with cult-favourite Scottish label Benbecula Records—a magical label that somehow managed to constantly discover the best ambient electronica the planet had to offer—he released the critically acclaimed albums Lemodie (2006) and Like Dust of the Balance (2009). Unfortunately, the label’s small size meant his albums had limited reach beyond Internet music nerds (his biggest exposure has been a single song’s appearance in the video game LittleBigPlanet 2). Benbecula ultimately folded in 2009, and after four years of near silence, Leary reawakened his creativity and decided to release his next effort on his own.

Leary’s claim to fame was always his creative mix of ambient techno and instrumentation that’s unconventional in the genre, such as traditional strings and banjos. That sound is prominent on National Ignition with tracks like “Blue Hours” and “Awaiting the Green Morning,” but Leary decreases the amount of non-keyboard sounds on several of the album’s tracks, resulting in some of his most decidedly non-traditional work to date. “Glassmaker” sounds like the closest to trance that he’ll ever get (for now), while the loud and ominous drums on “Dead Republics” make it one of his most unsettling works yet. The album closer “Abbau” is one of his quietest tracks, but also one of his strongest and most memorable.

Despite a handful of songs that use new techniques, the album overall is the same pleasing Ochre that has been entertaining fans (albeit relatively few of them) for years.

—Max Szyc