Album reviews: The Joy Formidable, Brooke Annibale, and Ellie Lawson

Album reviews: The Joy Formidable, Brooke Annibale, and Ellie Lawson

Adrenaline rock and a siren’s song

The Joy Formidable

Wolf’s Law/Atlantic Records

With Wolf’s Law, The Joy Formidable have released what may be one of the best rock albums of 2013. Between the epic rock, gorgeous melodies, swelling choruses, singer Ritzy Bryan’s pixieish and ethereal vocals convey all the dramatic sweep of a concept album that fulfills its promise. This is the meticulously crafted record that many bands strive to make. From the driving rhythms and catchy chords of “The Ladder is Ours” to the orchestra-heavy finale “The Turnaround,” the record is full of energy, adrenaline and diversity. The crunchy, distorted riffs and chugging drums on “Cholla” blend well with the contemplative lyrics: “What became of goodness?/Of fairness?/Where are we going?/What are we doing?” and Bryan’s vocals bring a genre-bending dynamic to the album, particularly on the blitzkrieg rock of “Bats,” where she whispers, croons, chants, and shouts in equal measure. It is Bryan’s multifaceted presence that makes Wolf’s Law a transcendent release.

Brooke Annibale

Words in Your Eyes/Self-released

In a follow-up to the stunning Silence Worth Breaking, Nashville singer-songwriter Brooke Annibale is back with a new EP, Words in Your Eyes. Annibale gives a subtle, enthralling performance on the ambient, orchestral first single “Middle of the Mess.” “By Your Side” acts as a companion piece to Silence Worth Breaking’s “Under Streetlights,” which featured a storyline of two lovers separated by distance, as Annibale sings steadfastly about never leaving her lover’s side again. The title track features swelling orchestrations, and powerful lyrics about the things we don’t say, and embodies themes about love, relationships and the importance of communication. “You Don’t Know” is a funky mid-tempo rocker, and on the gorgeous finale, “Tragically Beautiful,” swirling melodies and a bittersweet ukulele aid Annibale as she sings about an unusual love. Annibale’s way with melodies, song structure, razor-sharp lyrics and entrancing vocals coalesce to make Words in Your Eyes an admirable achievement.

Ellie Lawson

Insights/Create Your Own Reality Records

The latest release from UK singer-songwriter Ellie Lawson is the delicious five-track EP Insights. With mostly acoustic tunes doing unexpected things and keeping you on your toes, the acoustic “Back on Track” is enhanced by Lawson’s vocal versatility as she sings angelically on the choruses and raps on portions of the verses. While the sexy “Why” uses harp, Spanish guitar, and exotic percussion to give the track a sensual, exotic feel, the aesthetics of “I Know” are heightened by Lawson’s croon about the power of music, and “Learn” plays like an up-tempo jazz number. Finally, despite the serious message of “Try,” she employs a playful cadence, creating a surprising dichotomy. Hypnotic, crystal clear vocals draw you in like a siren’s song and make Insights a stunner.