A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Wrapup: The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus 11/4/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Friday November 5, 2010

Rachel and I drove up to Montreal last night to see The Joy Formidable, who we’ve both been dying to see since their EP A Balloon Called Moaning came out this past summer. I wrote about the haunting vocals, driving guitar riffs and frantic drumming in a post in June.

We left Burlington early to try and beat the traffic and get in dinner up there. It was a miserable, rainy drive both ways which definitely took a little more out of both of us than the trip up and back usually does. We ended up getting to the club early which was cool because we got to really check out the space, and wasn’t cool because we had to both wait for and then listen to the opening band, who I definitely didn’t care for. Seems like they had all the right pieces, but their sound was boring at best.

The next band, The Dig, definitely brought me back to life a bit. They were an energetic 4-piece (drums, bass, guitar and guitar/keys), out on a brief swing with The Joy Formidable. The bassist Emile Mosseri and the guitarist David Baldwin shared singing duties, and both held their own, though Mosseri’s parts were definitely the highlight. The bouncing bass got the crowd moving and psyched up for the main act. I’d definitely see these guys again.

The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus 11/4/2010

Rhydian Dafydd, Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas of The Joy Formidable

There were about 60 people there when The Joy Formidable took the stage, about 2/3 standing right up in front, and 1/3 in the back of the room sitting at tables, which must have felt a bit odd from the stage. They started with “Cradle”, and we were quickly introduced to lead singer Ritzy Bryan’s crazy eyes (exactly as it sounds), which definitely added an edge to their performance throughout. It was a great song to start with, and definitely got the crowd pumped. Bryan and drummer Matt Thomas were full of energy, with her thrashing her guitar around stage, and him with a face full of hair and arms that moved so fast you could barely see them. They had a great rock vibe.

There were three songs that I can think of that I loved, “Cradle, The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade,” and their final number “Whirring”, which they extended into a massive writhing, sweating ear-bursting freak out (glad I had my EarLove hi-fi earplugs with me). That performance definitely made the show for me.

Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas

Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas

Unfortunately, the rest of the songs, mostly a mix of new material including their recently released single “Popinjay” fell a little flat with me. It’s often really tough to hear a song live for the first time, especially at a club with fairly poor acoustics, because I find myself trying to hear things, instead of just listening and feeling. So I don’t want to say that their new material was necessarily not as good, but I definitely felt a lack of connection. I also found myself thinking how nice it’d be if they added some keys to their lineup (there were at least 2 songs which included pre-recorded sounds that could have been played by an actual person).

The set lasted barely an hour, which on most nights might have disappointed me, but I was so exhausted and really wanted to get the drive home over so I could be back in bed. I’d see The Joy Formidable again if they came to Burlington, and would definitely make it a point to hear more of their new stuff before I did. They put on a good — though not great — show, and could definitely benefit from a room with clearer acoustics. I recommend seeing them if they come to your town, with the caveat that their show is a bit of a mixed bag of fantastic and fair.

Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus, Montreal 11/4/2010

Ritzy Bryan

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Upcoming shows in Burlington & Montreal

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Tuesday November 2, 2010

There is a lot of good music over the next couple of weeks in this area, and I wanted to bring some of it to your attention (though you can always check for good upcoming shows in Burlington and Montreal using the calendar to the right). You can listen to any of the bands using the links below. I highly recommend any and all of these shows, and will be making it to several myself.

The Joy Formidable @ Petit Campus, Montreal
Thursday, Nov. 4

Morning Benders @ Higher Ground, Burlington
Sunday, Nov. 7

Hey Rosetta! (opening for Sarah Harmer) @ Higher Ground, Burlington
Monday, Nov. 8

Clinic @ La Sala Rossa, Montreal
Tuesday, Nov. 9

Glasser @ Il Motore, Montreal
Wednesday, Nov. 10

Horse Feathers & Anais Mitchell @ Higher Ground, Burlington
Wednesday, Nov. 10

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti @ Le National, Montreal
Tuesday, Nov. 16

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Standout Albums: “A Balloon Called Moaning” by The Joy Formidable

Filed Under: Album Reviews
Written by Brendan
Wednesday June 16, 2010

The Joy Formidable - A Balloon Called MoaningDuring my weekly music search, I’m often annoyed at the amount of Arcade Fire references used to describe bands. Having had my mind (and ears) blown by the muscular, triumphant sounds and crushing decrescendos of The Arcade Fire at The Orpheum Theatre in May of ’07, I have no tolerance for it. It’s just not possible to make as much noise as them and still make it sound beautiful.

So I’m going to try my hardest not to be that cheap with my descriptions of The Joy Formidable‘s A Balloon Called Moaning, despite the obvious ease of such a comparison (see how I worked that in there, while at the same point dismissing it?). I’ll also try not to draw any simplistic connection between this album and Metric’s latest release, Fantasies, but know that I’m trying really hard.

The Joy Formidable are Ritzy Brian on vocals/guitar, Rhydian Dafydd on vocals/bass and Matt Thomas on drums – a London-based rock trio with serious sound. They’ve filled A Balloon Called Moaning with thrashing drums, driving guitar riffs and haunting vocals. I’m a sucker for accents – any accent will do, really – and The Joy Formidable don’t disappoint. Ritzy’s voice manages to shine through all of the sound, and on some songs – notably “The Last Drop” – almost serves as a sedative to offset the gushing energy of the music.

“9669″ is fairly stripped down compared to the other songs, and shows shades of a the theatrical male-female duet mastered by Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan of Stars. But you could almost miss the song entirely with such rich, powerful and emotionally charged music surrounding it.

It is definitely impossible to sit still while listening to this album. And I don’t run, but Rachel swears by A Balloon Called Moaning as a motivational jogging (soft j) companion. I guess my twitching, tapping feet and nodding head would tend to agree with the sentiment.

I highly recommend this album, and think you’ll find yourself turning it up and bobbing along with me in no time.

Check out the official video for their tune “Austere” from A Balloon Called Moaning:

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

This week’s music purchases

Filed Under: New Releases
Written by Brendan
Wednesday May 5, 2010

I’ve been really looking forward to this week for quite a while. 5 years, to be exact. It was way back in 2005 that Broken Social Scene last graced my ears with a new album (that self-titled album, coincidentally, still stands as my favorite of this decade). Anyhow, yesterday I picked up the new Broken Social Scene album “Forgiveness Rock Record” as well as “Together” from The New Pornographers, “Heaven Is Whenever” from The Hold Steady and “A Balloon Called Moaning” from The Joy Formidable.

Forgiveness Rock Record is easily the best album of the year. I’ll write a more formal review of it at some point in the near future. But until then, just go buy it. Seriously. Right now.

I’ve never been much of a fan of The New Pornographers, but I really got into A.C. Newman’s solo album “Get Guilty” from 2009, so I figured I’d give them a try, and I have to say that I love this album. Maybe Neko Case, who recently moved to VT, can convince the band to come to Burlington for a show?

The Hold Steady album is a significant improvement from their last effort (which was almost enough to make me give up on them altogether), and definitely a departure from their signature sound without completely redefining who they are. The Joy Formidable album is also definitely worth picking up.

p.s. JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound tonight at Monkey House in Winooski – don’t miss it!

Broken Social Scene Forgiveness Rock Record The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever The Joy Formidable - A Balloon Called Moaning The New Pornographer - Together

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.