Diving Into the Band ‘Joy Again’ Through Their Album ‘Forever’

An appreciation of the debut album of a uniquely creative Philadelphia-based band.

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Joy Again

The album art of ‘Forever’ fits well into its own themes: quirky, hearty, and creative.

In the genre of rock, originality is invaluable. With such a wide variety of bands and musicians, it becomes crucial to find your own sound in the ever-changing landscape. Whether it is a brush on a canvas, fingers on a keyboard, or a pick on a string, finding your own distinguishable style is crucial to success and breaking out of the mold of the art in which you find yourself. 

Joy Again manages to do this and more, showcased in their debut album Forever, released in 2014. The band has since released another album (Piano, 2019) and an assortment of singles and EPs, but I believe that Forever is the best representation of the band’s prowess and potential in carving out a niche for themselves in the wide genre of alternative and indie rock.

Their hit EP ‘Looking Out For You,’ now nearing 65 million streams on Spotify, may have been what propelled the Philadelphia-based to their well-deserved recognition, but the origin of this success (and of the EP, literally) comes from Forever. ‘Looking Out For You ‘itself is a polished version of the song ‘Leaf On A Falling Yacht,’ the latter steering away from the experimental and rough feel of the former in favor of a crisper and bolder sound, one which serves as a refreshing new take on the original song and also as a highly successful single for mass consumption. ‘Leaf On A Falling Yacht’ sits at around 125,000 streams (on average with the other 29 songs on the album), a measly amount when compared to the 65 million of its descendant. 

The other song to escape the Forever album was ‘How You Feel,’ polished and remastered as ‘How You Feel’ (EP). This song did not receive the name change of its sibling (both EPs share the same art and originated from the same album), nor the success. Although the EP did indeed perform threefold better than its antecedent in streams, it found only a fraction of the reception that was given to ‘Looking Out For You.’ Regardless, both EPs are well-executed and refreshing takes on their original material and demonstrate the ability of Joy Again to tackle mainstream alternative and indie rock. 

Forever, however, is a different musical experience entirely. 

The album in its entirety is unique in a variety of ways, the first being its length. Forever boasts 30 tracks for a total length of 77 minutes, consisting of a hearty jumble of more conventional songs such as ‘Stairs,’ as well as funkier and more experimental tracks such as ‘Gilgamesh’ and ‘S’no (B-Side).’ The names to songs are also often quirky and full of the character and life that the band finds in their tone, with tracks such as S’orry You Didn’t Get to Kiss That Boy You Wanted to Kiss’ and ‘Cecile (Marcus Mamourian).’ Every characteristic of the album supports the vibe and sound that the music itself gives out, something that I have struggled to put into words, but ‘have found myself satisfied with adjectives such as “quirky,” “creative,” “experimental,” and “hearty.” 

While the album may have a cohesive musical theme and feel, marked with soft and distinctly ‘Joy Again’ vocals, a special guitar tone, and a relaxed as well as creative approach to instrumentation, each song is distinctly unique from another. The album as a whole features a wide range of ‘experimentation’ with the music that it puts forward, varying from distinctive funky sounds unheard elsewhere in the genre to radical quantities of pace and tone that derail from conventional rock. 

Mordecai’s Bad Dream’ and So Blue (B-Side)’ are produced with a heavy echo that seemingly lulls the songs; ‘How You Feel’ and ‘S’no (B-Side)’ feature a uniquely sounding relationship between string and percussion, with the two dancing around each other in a way thus creating a messy sound that feels just right. ‘Strange Day (2018)’ and ‘Gilgamesh’ are composed with unconventional sounds that foster a feeling of crude originality to the tracks; ‘Dead Dog’ and ‘Strange Day’ play with pacing, adding depth to the tracks that otherwise simply would not exist; ‘Renoir,’ a personal favorite of mine, is saturated with sound, providing an experimental and chaotic track.  ‘

The album also covers plenty of ground elsewhere, providing tracks all across the energy spectrum and proving the versatility of Joy Again in the genre in which they have established themselves. There are outright dance tracks such as ‘Dog In The Yard (B-Side),’ ‘Pennsylvania Black Coffee,’ and ‘Leaf On A Falling Yacht,’ full of energy and pep (the latter being adapted into ‘Looking Out For You,’ doing an even greater justice to the potential of the chord progression and vocals); melancholy and mushy tracks such as ‘Stairs,’ Melty,’ and ‘Hands,’ slow and simple in instrumentation with fitting vocals; happy and endearing songs such as ‘Cecille (Marcus Mamourian),’ ‘How You Feel,’ and ‘Worn Out,’ which feel warm and fuzzy through Joy Again’s distinct guitar tone; and everything in between with the chaotic feel of ‘Renoir’ and the funk of ‘Bali Shag Palak Paneer.’

Forever as an album is simply a joy, and an extensive look at the sound and feel that Joy Again managed to find way back in 2014 and have maintained to a degree ever since. Even on its own, without paying attention to the band behind it, the album is fully realized, and it is full of character as well as humanity. The wide and seemingly erratic array of sounds, tones, and feelings are, to my mind, a musical companion to the equally seemingly erratic quirks, characters, and traits that one’s own ‘humanity’ has to offer. It is the album’s creative, hearty, and distinctly unique sounds as well as feelings that distinguishes both itself and the band behind it from the rest of the rock genre, and sets it apart as an incredible artistic piece. 

Forever as an album is simply a joy, and an extensive look at the sound and feel that Joy Again managed to find way back in 2014 and have maintained to a degree ever since.

 

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