Thursday, November 29th, 2012
This Ladder Is Ours
The Joy Formidable and Always at The Mod Club in Toronto
Frank YangEven since they were very small and giving away downloads of their debut mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning for free in February 2009, The Joy Formidable have been huge. Huge in ambition, both sound- and career-wise, as evidenced by their massive-sounding full-length debut The Big Roar and the relentless touring schedule that surrounded it. Since their local debut in May 2010, they’ve been through Toronto a half-dozen times, including two nights this past week – Sunday night opening for The Gaslight Anthem at The Sound Academy and then on Monday with at a last-minute showcase at The Mod Club.
Since I’d seen the Welsh trio at their first three local shows, I was alright with missing their April gig at Lee’s Palace and the Gaslight show, but was pretty excited about the Mod Club one – they’d finally be showcasing some new material, what with a second album in Wolf’s Law already done and due out on January 22, and I had a feeling that their days of playing rooms as small as Mod were quickly drawing to a close.
Local openers Always have done a pretty good job of keeping their internet presence the polar opposite of the ubiquity implied by their name, but they’re actually far from anonymous, particularly if you’ve an ear for east coast pop. Frontwoman Molly Rankin had/has a burgeoning solo career in addition to being part of Nova Scotia’s most famous musical family, and guitarist Alec O’Hanley toured across the country countless times as part of Two Hours Traffic before departing last year. Assuming that their sound would be some mathematical combination of their respective roots- and power-pop histories would be unimaginative, though. Their experience with writing hooks and melodies was well-evident, but it was delivered in a vintage indie jangle-pop form, striking a good balance between low-key and bubbly and taking full advantage of Rankin’s Victora Legrand-ish sleepy vocal timbre – someone call Slumberland A&R, stat. Over the course of their set, they went from complete mystery to one of my top bands to watch in the city. For warm-ups, you can’t do much better than that.
In the year or so since I saw them last, The Joy Formidable have had quite the apprenticeship in playing arena-scale venues opening for the likes of Foo Fighters and Muse, and when you take into consideration the fact that they were a pretty explosive live act to begin with, it was reasonable to expect some fireworks. And based on the physical evidence, at least, they were equipped to do so. Having once again taken an interest in inspecting/dissecting guitarist rigs, it was hard not to notice that frontwoman Ritzy Bryan had traded her lone, albeit overflowing, pedalboard and single combo amp for a sleek, space-age floorboard with touchscreen tablet controls and an amplification setup that powered some 18 speakers. Arenas, remember?
But what makes The Joy Formidable so, well, formidable, isn’t the hardware – it’s the massive rock it’s used to move. Shoegaze with the wallflower personality excised in favour of extroversion, given shape in Bryan’s diminutive form (and crazy eyes) and huge guitar chops, with rhythm section Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas doing commendable work in just keeping up. Their hour-fifteen set was split about evenly between Balloon/Roar material and previews of Wolf’s Law, although already being a couple singles deep into the album, they weren’t necessarily unfamiliar. And though the new stuff was arguably heavier and more indebted to classic British metal than the old, it all fit very nicely with the template that The Joy Formidable have been riding to success thus far. They might not necessarily be filling rooms much bigger than this normally, but they did an outstanding job of making the couple hundred in attendance feel like they were seeing something massive in an uncommonly intimate setting, and while I can’t say they’ll ever have the fanbase to fill a stadium, by god they already play like they do.
And if you didn’t manage to score tickets to this show, fear not – Bryan announced that they’d be back in April.
PureVolume has an interview with Ritzy Bryan.
Photos: The Joy Formidable, Always @ The Mod Club – November 26, 2012
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Wolf’s Law”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Austere”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Greyhounds In The Slips”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Cradle”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “The Ladder Is Ours”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Cholla”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Wolf’s Law”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring” (new)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Austere”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “I Don’t Want To See You Like This”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Popinjay”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring” (original)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Austere” (original)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Cradle”
One of the early picks for UK buzz band 2013 – Palma Violets – are setting their sights on North America early; they’ll be at The Horseshoe on January 29 – tickets $12.50 – well before their debut album arrives on February 25. They’ve got kind of a Libertines thing going on, which I guess is about due to be fashionable again what with next year slated to be the “Year of the guitar” or some such nonsense.
Veronica Falls are keeping the fires of anticipation stoked before their second album Waiting For Something To Happen is finally released on February 12 – they’ve announced a North American tour for next Winter – look for them March 12 at The Garrison – and released a video for the first single from the new record.
Video: Veronica Falls – “Teenage”
Video: Charli XCX – “Cloud Aura”
Those hoping that that last couple years’ Pulp reunion might be an ongoing concern or even yield some new music, sorry – NME reports that Jarvis Cocker has basically declared it as having run its course. We’ll always have Spain.
But wait, Britpop fans refusing to stop reliving their youth cry out, what about Blur? They’re not breaking up! No, but as The Line Of Best Fit reports, Graham Coxon put the kibosh on a new Blur record; that’s fine – intermittent singles the quality of the last ones will do. Definitely coming out next week is Parklive, the live document of this Summer’s Hyde Park show in London, and they’ve released a video clip of the final song from that show; if they had indeed called it a day, well and forever, with this show, these would have been the perfect notes to finish up on.