Songs such as Radio of Lips, Blowing Fire and single The Last Thing on My Mind are driving indie-rock with big choruses and a wall of guitar and drums. But the Joy Formidable are at their best when they switch off their default setting: The Brook takes some surprise twists and turns with time-signatures, while Underneath the Petal introduces acoustic guitar, piano, woodwind and strings, giving Bryan’s breathy vocals a chance to shine.
Opener "A Second in White" might have been at home on The Big Roar, building up slowly to massive heights through its repeated fist-pumping chorus of "I had a second in white" while drummer Matthew James Thomas continues with his almost progressive-metal proclivities, going absolutely apeshit on the toms. "Radio of Lips" follows up, and is another classic Joy Formidable anthem, Ritzy Bryan leaning hard into the eighth notes with an alarming number of guitar tracks and hard into the chorus with her incomparable pipes.
There are non-anthems, too. "Liana," for example, is slick, coming off like the aforementioned Muse having their way with a Stevie Nicks cover. "Underneath the Petal," an acoustic tune built on repeated fingerpicked guitar refrains, might have come from the hobbit-infected head of Jimmy Page (two words: flute solo). And while both the maudlin pop diversions and studio experiments are palatable enough, the band remains strongest at its most strident, pounding out massive choruses in an ocean of churning guitars, adorning them with syncopation or weird time interplay, and just going for it. Thankfully, that still represents half the menu.