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New releases from The Joy Formidable, Suuns, and Yeasayer 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge The Joy Formidable
  • The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

Hitch

Caroline

File next to: Silversun Pickups, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blood Red Shoes

Bands that make it past the sophomore-slump crisis of a second album sometimes go through identity issues with the third. Welsh power trio The Joy Formidable's first two albums carve out a reputation for the larger-than-life vocals and strident guitar riffs of frontwoman Rhiannon "Ritzy" Bryan. On Hitch, the clear intent is to dial it back to a softer, more complex sound, one that may risk alienating the more hyper elements of the band's fan base, which would be a shame. Bryan proves she can put substance behind breathy harmonic lyrics, while she and bassist Rhyd Daffyd try out complex arrangements on tracks like "Radio of Lips" and "Liana." The album's intricacies may prove difficult to pull off live, but The Joy Formidable would not move forward if they simply revved up the riffs from their two previous albums. By opting for difficult arrangements, the band's third album is their best. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Suuns
  • Suuns

Suuns

Hold/Still

Secretly Canadian

File next to: Cocteau Twins, Clan of Xymox, Depeche Mode

Though there's a dark and doomy undercurrent to the songs on Hold/Still, Suuns (pronounced "soons") nevertheless adhere to the basic tenets of melody. The Montreal group is clearly aiming for a krautrock-ish vibe here, with a hypnotic aesthetic that comes through loud and clear. But amid the left-field electronic squawks and jagged, droning guitar textures, there are still hooks to be found. The guitars on "UN-NO" sound like air raid sirens, and singer-guitarist Ben Shemie's half-spoken vocal style is alluring in its own way. The tension builds from the start of the unrelentingly stomping "Resistance," and it's both a surprise and a relief when — two minutes in — the piece reveals itself as an actual song. Producer John Congleton (Swans, St. Vincent, The Black Angels) helps give the group a focused sonic approach that is both eerie and inviting. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge Yeasayer
  • Yeasayer

Yeasayer

Amen and Goodbye

Mute Artists

File next to: Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, TV On the Rado

Over the course of three exceptional studio albums, Yeasayer escalated their use of spiritual found-sounds and strange melodies. What followed was a four-year hiatus, leading up to the Brooklyn band's long-awaited fourth album, Amen and Goodbye. The album title might suggest that this is the band's swan song, but Yeasayer have expressed no intention of breaking up. And while the time lag may have fueled expectations for some sort of psychedelic monolith for the ages, it's actually the lack of profundity which allows listeners to let go and hum these infectious, often ridiculous songs. The band recruits Suzzy Roche of The Roches to sing along in "I Am Chemistry." Other tracks like "Prophecy Gun" and "Silly Me" sound like cartoon chorales. Yeasayer realize that the most radical musical messages don't come from overstatement, but rather from absurdity, a place from which Amen and Goodbye draws its strength. — Loring Wirbel

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