Release Year: 2015
Before seeing them live with Metric I had a vague idea who Joywave were. I heard the name a few times, but didn’t have an idea about the music. After their 45 minute set, I went back to the merch booth and bought this album. Though they span various genres they mainly make dance music, which I’m not the biggest fan of. It’s often too repetitive for my tastes, but Joywave find a way to keep their songs fresh, fun, and exciting by mixing things up.
Things kick off with the slick, cool groove of “Somebody New.” It begins with what sounds like electrical equipment breaking down. It then turns into cool pulsating synth beats. The vibe of the song is real slick and smooth thanks to mix of electronic with a hip hop edge. It also doesn’t hurt that the hook of “Don’t wanna ever wake up/Don’t wanna ever wake up, I don’t/Don’t wanna ever wake up/Next to somebody new” manages to be memorable. “Carry Me” sounds more like a typical club song with rapid synth, upbeat guitars, and bright keys. It reminds me popular radio dance songs from the 90s. Because of its familiar sound and repetitive music, it’s not as strong as the other tracks, but it’s still pretty fun to listen to.
From here the album ramps up and takes listeners into overdrive with back to back to back stellar tracks. The weird, “boom boom” sampling at the beginning of “Tongues” sticks with you. It’s odd enough, yet still catchy to make it the most defining thing about the song. It automatically gets you in the groove. The rest of the song is smooth and relaxed especially with the way vocalist Daniel Armbruster sings with a stop-start rhythm. Even though “Destruction” begins with an unnecessary spoken word intro, it’s one of the best songs on the album. Here is where Joywave breaks from their electro style. The music is gritty and harsh sounding like a blaring siren in your ear. It plays off the light, whistling melody that comes in. The whole thing is funky and fun, but still has a bit of an edge.
“Now” has a straight up rock and roll vibe with the driving guitar and energetic feel. There’s some hint of synth during the verses for a slight New Wave mood. There’s such a burst of energy and fun in this song, it makes you want to jump up as soon as it comes on. “Parade” is another standout on the album. It has a booming blast beat that sounds like it’s burning out your speakers. The music is really jagged and harsh, which again is paired with Armbruster’s falsetto singing. It’s fun the way many of their songs have loud, distorted music, but calm vocals. Though the song is thunderous and a good time it does end with a weird sample from Bambi about eating clovers, which makes sense due to the next track being named “In Clover.”
These odd samples are a running theme throughout the album. “Feels Like a Lie” has one at the end talking about space, while the closing track “Bad Dreams” ends with an instrumental from Peter Pan. They’re kind of interesting, but take you out of the song. It’s unnecessary unless you think about it in the scope of the album. Many of the samples relate to the next song, so listening to these tracks on shuffle make these parts jarring. But when you listen to the entire album from start to finish it makes more sense. Maybe its Joywave’s way of making sure listeners consume the entirety of their album. Or it could relate to the fact the band does a lot of DJ sets and the samples feel more comfortable in that setting.
Things start tapering off near the end of the record. Songs like “Nice House” and “Traveling at the Speed of Light” are tolerable, but don’t hold your attention as well as the other songs. “Nice House” sounds like it was ripped from the 80s. It has a cheesy bright synth riff you expect to find in a Duran Duran song. It’s not horrible, but it takes a bit to grow on you. If anything the lyrics will catch your attention: “I’d thought I’d have a nice house/to my brains out.” The latter song is more on the subdued side. It’s quiet and atmospheric with a little funk to the guitar. The flow of everything also gives it this unexpected sensual feeling. Again, it’s not a low point on the record, but it’s not something you’ll fall in love with right away.
The album closes with the atmospheric “Bad Dreams.” Like so many of their other songs, this one has a slick opening featuring a pulsing that sounds like a heart beating. Even though it starts out a bit mellow the music gets more intense as the song grows. There’s even a point where operatic singing comes in making it sound like scary chanting. The creepy feeling grows with lyrics talking about being “chased down the street with torches in the air.” Armbruster tries to reassure us to not worry about these bad dreams, but it doesn’t do much to change your mind about the haunting song.
What makes Joywave’s music so refreshing is all the different sounds and elements that go into it. They make a lot of dance music, but their blend of electro, pop, rock, and funk make them hard to pin down. There may be some low moments, but the album is all around great otherwise. It’s a lot of fun, upbeat, energetic, and gets you moving, which seems to be the goal of the band. Their songs are exciting because you never know what’s coming next. Is it more electro pop? Or is it a bittersweet ballad? They know how to make dance music exciting and appealing for those who may not be into it. I know I can’t wait for what they’ll do next.