The Joy Formidable

The Big Roar

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Taking a cue from the early '90s, when bands like Lush and Slowdive bathed the English countryside in lush, guitar-driven noise, the Joy Formidable crank their amps to the breaking point on this shoegazing debut. The Big Roar is a massive, melodic growl of an album, combining four retooled songs from the band's 2009 EP with eight newer tunes. It’s not a time capsule, though; songs like "Whirring" update the band’s shoegaze influences with the anthemic four-on-the-floor insistence of Arcade Fire, and Ritzy Bryan’s vocals are pushed to the front of the mix, eschewing the Thatcher-era tradition of burying one’s voice beneath layers of distorted guitar squall. Like an innocent girl riding the amusement park’s biggest, baddest roller coaster, she sings her melodies in a sweet voice, serving as the cool-down foil to her band’s off-the-rails noise without threatening to put out the fire. Even so, some of the album’s best moments are instrumental, especially the extended codas that push "Whirring" and "The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie" into seven-minute territory. The Big Roar is an album that unapologetically swings for the fences, with songs that bubble skyward like mushroom clouds and simple, straightforward melodies that encourage arena-sized crowds to sing along, but the Joy Formidable never resort to the sort of chest-thumping bravado that earned Kings of Leon their own share of critics. There's a right way and a wrong way to write anthems in the early 21st century, and the Joy Formidable -- with only three bandmembers present -- find themselves on the right side of the dividing line during the majority of this debut.

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