The Joy Formidable spent a year holed up in their own studio in their native Wales writing and recording Hitch, their third full-length album, which is a tour de force if a little long-winded. You see, the record clocks in at roughly 70 minutes and many of its songs are over six minutes long, the band showing off its proggy side and flexing its muscles. To the uninitiated, the album might feel bloated or overly self-indulgent, but fans of their previous albums should find it rather enthralling and their inventive arrangements might even win them some new ones.
The album opens with “A Second in White,” which features rapid-fire drums and blistering guitars, the latter of which are provided by singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan, who sounds fierce as ever during the verses and charismatic as Blondie’s Debbie Harry during the catchy chorus. At 3:56, it’s one of the shorter tracks on the album and, surprisingly enough, it’s those tracks that linger in your head long after listening to the album. One highlight is “Fog (Black Windows),” which clocks in at 4:45. It’s something of a mid-tempo ballad and one you’ll want to pay attention to the lyrics to as Ritzy wrote it about her break up with bassist Rhydian Dafydd. For most bands, that would have caused the group to break up, or at least suffer a line-up change, but with The Joy Formidable it just resulted in inspiration for one of the band’s best songs to date. This is a band where the motto “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” rings true. After all, if you put most bands in their self-made studio for a solid year they would implode. With The Joy Formidable, they put their frustrations into the music, which is no doubt why it has such a fight to it. You get the sense that they were battling for their lives when they made some of these songs. You can practically hear the blood, sweat and tears on the vicious “It’s Started,” for example. Other songs, like “Liana,” are slightly more delicate but there’s nothing anyone could call wimpy to be heard. Fans of their live shows should especially be pleased as they’ve captured their ferocity and immediacy perfectly here.