(Photo by Sarah Jeynes)

My relationship with London-via-Wales band The Joy Formidable began sometime in early 2008 while I was living in Boston. I was running a music blog and getting solicited by every clown band under the sun. Most weren’t very good and tried way too hard to sell me, but TJF had just posted the tune “Austere” on their MySpace page (hey, remember that site?) and sent me short, polite message and I gave them a shot. They reminded me of ’90s Tanya Donelly-led project Belly, but with the fuzz turned way, way up – very impressive stuff.

As subsequent singles “Cradle” and “Whirring” were released, followed by the mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning, my fandom intensified even further. These guys were really that good. In May of 2009 I finally got to see the band play in England, at a small venue in Brighton as part of the always essential Great Escape conference.

With the band on the cusp of indie stardom in the UK, around 200 people packed into Water Margin for a set full of tension. Tension between guitar and bass. Tension between vocals and feedback. Tension between band and crowd. It was exactly what’s needed from a band on the rise.

Their performance was so good that a certain well-known BBC DJ was jumping around and dancing like a cat just doused with water. So I guess not all music industry folks are jaded.

But like any good story, this one has some ups and downs. The band has achieved some well-deserved success on both sides of the Atlantic, but their proper debut album The Big Roar is a bit of a letdown. The now extended version of “Whirring” is probably best left for live performances, and some of the re-recorded songs lack the immediacy of the originals, while some of the new songs are wrought with overproduction.

The band has just released the video for “Wolf’s Law,” which is the first single off of their second album. The track is free to download if you join their mailing list.


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