Review Summary: Graceful and elegant, yet simple and subtle, Joie de Vivre hit their mark.
I’ve always been fascinated with the Spanish Romantic painter Francisco Goya. You may recognize his more popular pieces like the colorful depiction of the Spanish Civil War El Tres de Mayo 1808
or the foreboding (and now disputed) work El Coloso
, but what most interests me is the darker world that began manifesting itself in his paintings. Intense and insane, the works he scrawled on the walls of his dwelling, Quinta Del Sordo, were so intensely personal that they were never meant to be seen by the world. Themes of horror and mortality were commonplace to Goya, a man suffering from deafness. Rather than coming off as simply disturbed, Goya’s “Black Paintings” leave a distinct impression of a lonely man, in his own little world. The comparison isn’t perfect, of course, but the distinct loneliness and personal narrative of Goya comes across as strikingly similar to Joie de Vivre’s introspective journey, their first full-length, The North End.
Yes, Joie de Vivre’s album was obviously meant to be shared with the world (and it should), but The North End
, in a wholly way, creates a blank canvas of dreariness, lethargy, and even ambiguity much like the nineteenth-century Spanish artist.
Sorrowful and isolated, Joie de Vivre’s latest is a record for the loner. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But isn’t emo, inherently, the genre
for the misanthrope in the back of the classroom with the Texas Is the Reason shirt on, muttering to himself?” Well, this conception might pervade the genre, but Joie de Vivre take certain aspects of the midwestern emo sound and amplify them in a subtle way that’s sure to get you thinking.
Refining the genre that Sunny Day Real Estate began back in the 90’s seems to be as trite in today’s music scene as silly MySpace descriptors are, but Joie de Vivre distinguish themselves. “Summer in New London” sets the dial to ‘somber and rejected,’ and this distinct tone is never deserted by The North End
. Graceful horns dignify the song, and I’m convinced even before Joie de Vivre’s vocalist takes his first breath. The essence of The North End
is perceptible already- a simple elegance. Joie de Vivre, as was the case with their Summer Months EP, are perfectly adequate at constructing a sad, emotional melody married with despondent vocals. Never stunning with brilliance, Joie de Vivre takes a subtle path to success- one where the listener is subjected to quality song after quality song to achieve an almost subconscious level of appreciation, as pretentious as that sounds. The North End
is best enjoyed as a whole; just let it slide into your brain as the dismal tendencies of Joie de Vivre take shape.
The introspective nature of the album begs for repeated listens and concentration. Be it the soft vocals, the slow drawl of the horns, or the oft-repetitious guitar melodies, every aspect of The North End
serves as a synecdoche, granting the album a wholeheartedly full
feeling, one you would expect from a band much more mature. It’s fantastic to see the band given the chance to spread their wings; because as enjoyable as Summer Months
is, it feels criminally ephemeral. Joie de Vivre utilize the space of The North End
to its full extent filling the album with enough single songs sure to elicit scores of listens- “Salt,” “Upper Deck San Diego,” and the title track all deserving of special praise. Though, as with Summer Months
, it’s difficult to pinpoint the outstanding qualities of individual songs (a sign of consistency, in this case). While the uniformity of The North End
detriments in dynamism, it enhances the emotional strength of the music.
In effect, it’s easy for me to think back to see why I originally felt a hankering to compare Joie de Vivre to Francisco Goya when those lonely horns hit me. The North End
is an intelligent and personal album, one that’s sure to draw bounds of personal connections from the lucky listener. At its softly-beating and consistent heart, The North End impresses not through providing another likable SDRE clone, but instead carving an oh-so-subtle path for themselves that delves into the psyche of the listener.
Also, if you'd like a taste of Joie de Vivre, be sure to stream The North End in its entirety on PunkNews.org on June 8th for free.