The Joy Formidable – Aaarth (Hassle) 
The Joy Formidable - Aaarth

Release Date: 28th September 2018

I’m slightly ashamed that I’m really only spending some quality time with Welsh trio the Joy Formidable for this, their fourth album. The shame comes from the fact that this album, ‘Aaarth’, is just so mind blowingly incredible and that cannot be a fluke so now I’ve got a whole back catalogue to go back through. Anyway, this isn’t Shame With Monger it’s Listen With Monger so let’s get on the reason you’re here.

‘Aaarth’ opens up with ‘Y Bluen Eira’ and you’re immediately transported in to a world of some sort of futuristic rock club where the chicken wire in front of the stage is made of lazers and so are the beers. The hypnotic vocals and wall of rhythm section are immediately arresting and enticing which, as rules of opening an album up go, pretty much ticks every available box. We’re on our way but we’ve left all the maps at the gas station and turned the lights off, just to make it interesting. Next up is formidable recent single ‘The Wrong Side’ with it’s Queens of the Stone Age guitars tempered by the siren song of front-woman Ritzy and sprinkled melodies. Without wanting to give too much away, ‘Go Loving’ is one of my top two tracks on this collection due to it’s unblinking, clenched teeth psychotic approach and uber-cool fuzzed up guitar sound that's like a chainsaw scything through a bunch of discarded Trump wigs.

If you’re not in to this by now then I’d suggest you walk away because this worm-hole doesn’t get anymore mainstream or Heart FM friendly so you might want to save your tiny, fragile mind….still here? Good. The Spanish guitar and insect rattle that opens up ‘Circada (Land on your Back)’ is charming enough but when Ritzy harmonises the guitar melody and then they through in some sitar, a futuristic rock bass line and you don’t know where or when you are any more. ‘All in All’ offers the illusion of respite but the childlike xylophone chimes and near-whispered vocal are like something out of a creepy 70s British horror film which is beyond unsettling – especially when the song erupts in to a My Bloody Valentine-esque climax. From that place we are transported to the back of a hall where wrestling is being announced and the trio launch in to a sound that no three-piece has any right to create, this is ‘What For’. Blending the psychedelia of compatriots the Super Furry Animals with the bombast of Band of Skulls or the Black Keys, this track is a triumphant call to arms the switches between melodies and power with ease.

The Joy Formidable - takin' you for a ride
A slightly off-kilter organ melody introduces ‘The Better Me’ and then a guitar that is channelling Zed from Police Academy joins to make this my absolute favourite on the album. Ritzy sweet, welcoming vocal is David the Goliath of the guitars and drums combination with the whole thing ending in a draw as the pair decide to call it a day and head to the pub. The simple piano scale of ‘Absence’ is a rare but perfectly placed oasis of calm, the eye of the storm perhaps, but shows off yet another side to the Dungeons’n’Dragons die that is the Joy Formidable’s cinematic oeuvre and it just sublime. The guitars seer back in with ‘Dance of the Lotus’ and by now I’m Googling live dates because I need to feel the full force of this rhythm section hit my rib cage before I die – they’ve made the list. On ‘You Can’t Give Me’, the trio dance the said lonely dance of the last singleton on the dance floor, but this is a glorious dance inspired by Lush, Kate Bush, Elastica, Breeders and Belly. Interestingly, album closer ‘Caught on a Breeze’ kicks off with something of a frantic, almost Jazzy bass line that puts me in mind of Muse before settling in to a break-neck slice of city night inspired rock that is perfect for a car chase if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to chase a car but have the time to select a playlist.

The joy of this album is formidable (obvious, but needed saying) and I can’t emphasise enough how much you need this in your life. It’s a trip though, it really is, so maybe pack some munchies and something to drink. And a poncho.

Live Dates:

28th September – Album Release Party @ Spillers Records, Cardiff
29th September – Rough Trade, Nottingham
30th September – Rough Trade, Bristol
1st October – Rough Trade East, London
16th October – Martys On Newport, Tustin
17th October – Casbah, San Diego
19th October – Lodge Room Highland Park, Los Angeles
21st October – Strummers, Fresno
23rd October – The Independent, San Francisco
26th October – Doug Fir Lounge, Portland
27th October – Fox Cabaret, Vancouver
28th October – Neumo’s, Seattle
31st October – Globe hall, Denver
1st November – Record Bar, Kansas City
2nd November – Turf Club, St Paul
3rd November – Lincoln Hall, Chicago
4th November – Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto
6th November – The Sinclair, Cambridge
7th November – Underground Arts, Philadelphia
8th November – Rec Room, Buffalo
9th November – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn
10th November – Black Cat, Washington