The Joy Formidable

Wolf's Law

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A play on German anatomist/surgeon Julius Wolff's theory that a human or animal's bones will adapt to the stresses imposed upon them, Wolf's Law, the second studio album from the Joy Formidable, finds the Welsh trio building upon its already gargantuan sound with remarkable aplomb. On 2011's appropriately titled The Big Roar, the band successfully channeled the rich sonic breadth of alt-rock giants like My Bloody Valentine and Lush into the increasingly shallow waters of 21st century indie rock, carving out its own unique tributary with past generations' tools. With arena-sized scope and meticulous attention to detail, the band works with a larger arsenal on Wolf's Law, which pairs all three members' well-honed weapons of choice with a full-on string section, most effective on stunning opening cut "This Ladder Is Ours" and epic closer "The Turnaround," the latter of which lit up the Internet months before the album's release with an evocative, Terrence Malick-inspired video for the song's propulsive three-and-a-half-minute coda. Like The Big Roar, Wolf's Law hits hard and fast once the cage is unlocked, pummeling the listener with inventive yet occasionally exhausting Trompe le Monde-era Pixies and Black Holes and Revelations-inspired Muse-isms, but it's broken up midway through by the lovely unadorned acoustic post-breakup ballad "Silent Treatment," which does a nice job putting the previous cacophony in perspective. The second half of the album, which includes the propulsive, shape-shifting "Maw Maw Song," the expansive and elegiac "Leopard and the Lung," and the aforementioned Sigur Rós-esque "The Turnaround," adheres more closely to the alternately pastoral and explosive nature of the group, sounding for all the world like a storm making its way to land, pausing occasionally to pick up steam amidst the ruin.

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