Review Summary: More Joywave isn't that much of a bad thing
It’s a constant surprise to me that Joywave aren’t more popular. With a consistently radio-friendly sound that marries more unconventional production to extremely catchy songwriting, Joywave have found a sound often emulated but seldom perfected. Yet their success has been quite muted, to the band’s benefit, however. They’ve found a way to be successful without even coming close to oversaturation, drawing in both the indie heads and the radio listeners. With their new album, Possession, front man Daniel Armbruster and co. shoot for the stars, more literally than figuratively with the NASA and Space-race theming of the album and single art and their propensity to perform in bright orange astronaut jumpsuits. What we have then is a success of a listening experience and a solid sequel to past records.
On Possession, listeners will find more of the same 80’s influenced electronic tinged rock found on their previous releases. Unfortunately, there’s very little new to note in the instrumental department. You have the IDM and EDM influenced horns, glitches, beeps, and static bursts all over the album, just as in past records. The guitars glimmer and growl appropriately, with synth keyboards providing a nice contrast as always. The drums and bass keep things rock solid, with the bass being funky and unique and - most noticeably - subdued. In fact, the solid musicianship betrays a technical skill that just begs to be let loose, but seems held back by the conventional songwriting. There are moments soaked in memorability however, such as the guitar solo from “Like a Kennedy” that just screams Brian May. Armbruster’s complex lyrical themes continue here as well, in a different form. On their first two records, they dealt with relationships and mental illness respectively. Here on Possession, Armbruster’s lyrics focus outward, and one should look no further than the first song “Like A Kennedy,” where he sings in his increasingly confident falsetto about two of President Trump’s bigger scandals to an arrangement especially reminiscent of Queen. Armbruster’s a skilled writer and it shows with the tongue in cheek moments all over the record, such as in “Funny Thing About Opinions” a wry take on the internet echo chamber complete with quirky spoken word verses. He tries to cover as many topics as he can and is successful by and large, but unfortunately results in less nuanced takes of those issues, ending up more pointing out problems and symptoms of society without any real solutions.
At the end of the day, this is another excellent Joywave album that fits right alongside their past two – sure to please the fans but probably won’t garner many new ones who disliked them before. Now the similarity to the past albums isn’t a bad thing, as the formula hasn’t grown old just yet. In fact, the total bangers that make up the first half of the album and the smooth jams that make up the second half keep the experience afloat quite nicely, this time. To prevent a sonic stagnation, the next album should showcase a freedom from conventional pop songcraft and an acceptance of their quirkier eccentricities. For now, we have an excellent inclusion to the discography of band capable of a classic, but still in need of some more growth.