I have a bad habit of only falling in love with records that go down easy. The catchy fluff that I can discard as unthinkingly as I declare it my Favorite Album of the Year. It might just be an emergent effect of listening to hundreds of new bands a month, that one becomes skeptical about putting in the work to really grok a piece of music when that time might be better spent on something else.
That’s how I initially felt about No Joy’s third full-length effort, More Faithful. The jarring, combative opening notes of “Remember Nothing” put me immediately into defensive critic-mode. I wanted to be courted, not unceremoniously smacked in the face with fuzzy guitars and vaguely off-key vocals. Whether it was really the fault of the music or just my mood that day seems immaterial—the whole first listen left me disinterested in pursuing a second.
Thank god I changed my mind.
After hesitantly giving it a second chance, More Faithful has proven to be something special. At some point it just clicked. Throughout the album, No Joy pays homage to classic shoegaze without feeling derivative, channeling the droning guitars and whammy-bar pitch bending of bands like My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain. But it’s more than simple imitation; this is a band that has captured the spirit of the scene and made it their own.
What sets them apart from other shoegaze acts, past and present, is a willingness to mix things up a bit. Tracks like “Hollywood Teeth” and “Chalk Snake” drown the vocals in a wall of sound, which is what we’ve come to know, love, and expect from the genre. But elsewhere, “Everything New,” “Moon in my Mouth,” and “Rude Films” allow Jasamine White-Gluz’s voice to shine through and drive the progression of the music. “Burial in Twos” and “I am an Eye Machine” even dabble in some pretty melodic synths. Usually, you know what you’re going to get with an album like this, and predictability breeds monotony. But No Joy keeps you on your toes.
Even if you’re a fan of the genre going in (as I was), this might be a record that takes some getting used to. It’s brash, unapologetic, and a little hard to put in a box, but that’s exactly what makes it fantastic. I don’t want to rush and say that it’s one of my favorites of the year, because that seems to be the most efficient way to doom it to irrelevance by July. But don’t be surprised if it ends up squarely at the top of our list come December.