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Ever since their debut record The Big Roar, Welsh trio The Joy Formidable have worked hard to carve their place in the indie rock world. The trio of lead singer and guitarist Ritzy Bryan, bassist Rhydian Dafydd and drummer Matt Thomas create a sound that is distinctively their own, a mix of a beautiful voice backed by a heavy, melodic roar. In 2013, they released another fantastic album, Wolf’s Law, and followed that up with many EP’s and singles including a Welsh-language series. Tomorrow, The Joy Formidable release Hitch, their highly anticipated third full-length record, Hitch.
You can tell right from the start, Hitch is unmistakably a Joy Formidable record, the distinctive roar is front and center on Hitch’s first track, “A Second in White”. The second track, “Radio of Lips”, features a killer hooking guitar lead and boundless energy that recalls “This Ladder Is Ours” from Wolf’s Law. The trio shows a bit of their lighthearted side between “Radio of Lips” and “The Last Thing On My Mind”. Bryan exclaims “I’m just gonna play the melodica for the next 20 minutes by myself” before counting into a slick groove supplied by Dafydd, on a track that is surprisingly danceable for the trio.
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Then, the listener is greeted by piano on “Liana”, a welcome change of pace, which leads into a really beautiful core of this record. “The Brook” is a true beaut, with an acoustic core and some mandolin and a really badass intro. The change of pace is interrupted with “It’s Started” and it’s awesome drum solo intro that leads right back into that roar. “The Gift” goes back to a slower pace, we’re greeted by synthesized horns and a lead vocal from Rhydian Dafydd which is just fantastic. “The Gift” explodes into “Running Hands With the Night”, the transition between the two songs is just amazing, these two go together so well despite being such different songs.
“Underneath The Petal” is another beautiful acoustic track, it really shows off how gorgeous Ritzy Bryan’s voice is. These slower tracks on Hitch really bring that out, when she’s not trying to overpower the raw sound of her guitar and the band behind her, she can really let go, and when we get about halfway through “Underneath the Petal” and they bring strings, woodwinds and very light percussion into the mix it’s just an amazing creation. The penultimate track “Blowing Fire” is one last straight-rocker before the album’s amazing closer, “Don’t Let Me Know”. “Don’t Let Me Know” is a slow build, an epic track, possibly the band’s most epic to date. It builds into an uncontrollable beast, giving the record one final roar before leaving the listener with just a minimal programmed synth loop gently fading out to bring an end to Hitch.
The Joy Formidable have created something special with Hitch. They built on the formula of Wolf’s Law, creating a dynamic album with huge tracks that could fill arenas and intimate tracks for small concert halls. Hitch is longer, it clocks in at over an hour, and the pace changes are welcome, they keep the album fresh for an hour. They spent so much time working on this record, too, and it shows, each track is handled with incredible care, you can see why it took three years since Wolf’s Law. Hitch is a perfect example of how to evolve as a band but not lose your identity, their roar is still there, the frenetic drumming of Matt Thomas is still there, Ritzy still makes a ton of noise, but Hitch is more mature, more grounded, and it never feels forced, it feels like a natural progression for them as a band.
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