Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Joy Formidable; The Lonely Forest @ Webster Hall

The Joy Formidable; The Lonely Forest
@ Webster Hall
New York, NY - April 29, 2011

Going by my Ipod and the history it contains, it appears I listened to a song called "Whirring" by a band called the Joy Formidable in January of 2010 and didn't think much of it. About 4 or 5 months later, I heard it again and thought it one of the greatest songs of the year. Now all these months later, I finally saw the Welsh band on their second big headlining tour in a year, on the march upward, and now equipped with a new LP, The Big Roar, that includes a more epochal version of "Whirring". The new version is more in keeping with the live sound alluded to on A Balloon Called Moaning.

The Joy Formidable are fans of, and masters of, intense, thundering, crashing riffs. Headbanging, fist pumping, crazed jumping riffs. A little grunge, a little Brit 90's, a little arena. But to get there and back, they obsess over long build-ups and send-offs, that showcase their unquestionable talent and ability to keep pace with each other. But the trade off for showcasing this skill to the degree that they do it, leads to "OK already where's the riff, where's the next song" questioning.

The songs other than "Whirring" include a couple of stand-outs, namely "Cradle" but nothing has yet to imitate or recast the unnerving power of "Whirring". But having a gong on stage helps (a gong amidst a strange set-up of furniture and a couch and lamps, and Chinese cats, including a blow-up cat brought out during "Whirring").

The Lonely Forest, out of Anacortes, Washington, have been on my radar for a couple of months now because of their song "Coyote". As it turns out, the Lonely Forest are everything that song hints at. They share with the Joy Formidable a love of the thundering riffs but the Lonely Forest care more to create pop songs with that love. Considering they come from the very tip of the Northwest, and considering their age, there is a healthy respectful ode to some of that Northwest sound we've come to known over the years but combined with some Buddy Holly style machismo to go with it. There is terrific songwriting at work here and the kind of talent it takes to convey it. This is a band to keep an eye on for the long haul.

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