Joy Again’s latest release, Piano, is a nostalgia-fueled trip down singer Sachi DiSerafino’s memory lane. There are layers to this EP that make it difficult to pin down within one set genre, and listening from beginning to end feels like a purposeful journey through the past and back to the present. The nasal-pitched vocals hold such a reminiscent vibe, while the heavy guitars and tinny drums keep us stuck firmly in the now.
Piano fits nicely in the rest of Joy Again’s discography. It has all the elements of their self-described “ticklishly cynical pop with a wry sense of humor.” Their most ambitious release, their only LP, 2014’s Forever, sits at a hefty 30-track listing. Piano seems to take the best of that hour and a half long experiment and condense it into a curation of all of Forever’s chaos. Forever blends elements of experimental folk, bedroom pop, and shoegaze. There are a lot of conflicting themes that manage to work well together, and the long LP is much more reserved than the animated Piano. Where Forever is looping and atmospheric, Piano is artfully in-your-face.
The opening track, “Abaigh’s Song,” is bright and jumpy from the start, kicking off with drums and strong, impassive vocals. Each song on this EP feels sort of like a caricature of itself, as the punchy, zig-zagging soundscape paint a cartoonish picture for the listener. The purposefully comical use of guitar and synth slides and that inimitable voice work as the culmination of Piano’s sound. There’s a focus on grungy theatrics in the performance and production, and it’s noticeable right from the get-go. This bold experimentation makes Piano a standout among other local releases.
The more mellow tracks “I’m Your Dog” and “Couldn’t,” are sweet crooners that speak about love and loss, as the story always goes. The mixing of these tracks is phenomenal. A blend of synthetic and organic sounds exist in perfect symmetry with each other out, careful to avoid an imbalance of power. The off-kilter yo-yoing of playful noises and purposeful guitar and drum beats never feel too over the top. The deceptively simple lyrics hit hard, and weave a timeless narrative about regret. There are universal truths behind a lot of DeSerafino’s lyrics, and he cuts deep and pulls to the surface the indescribable feelings that we undoubtedly all feel. “Couldn’t” says it better than I ever could.
“I couldn’t take it back if you wanted me to/ And even if I stay awake, holding on my breath/ Would you still love me to death?”
The sweet and broody nature of “Couldn’t” makes its long length necessary and poignant. While the cartoony vibe of the overall release does lend itself to shorter, quick-hitting songs, several moments seemed like they could benefit from being fleshed out a little bit more. The breakdown in “Abaigh’s Song” is so impactful and features a fluttering rollercoaster-synthesizer moment, but it feels like it’s over too soon.
Arguably the most standout track on the EP is “Special Secret Medicine.” It’s not a crooner like the sweeter “Couldn’t” or “Disorder” due to its experimental nature. It’s a wildcard. The lyrics are layered and seem jovial at a surface level, but they serve as an examination of mental illness in a distanced sort of way. There’s a synthetic dog bark that peaks through the chaotic drum fills, almost robotic vocals, and an insane synth solo at the end. Like Joy Again themselves, the track an electropop outlier and I love it for how it embodies the chaotic discourse of a scattered mind.
- Thoughtful, sometimes humorously relatable lyrics
- A vocalist with a unique tone
- Playful sonic experimentation never comes off as overwhelming
- The tracks are overall cohesive, except for the closer, “Rats.” It feels a little lost, and could have maybe been placed further up in the tracklisting
- Certan sonic elements could’ve been further fleshed out
Listen to Joy Again’s Piano EP here! Sorry this review is so late, let us know how you feel about the EP in the comments.