Plum Musings on a Forest Trail

I was skulking around SoundCloud one day, thinking about the added effort it takes to discover new indie songs. It’s just too easy to turn on a go-to favorite when I’m in need of a bit of musical comfort food or a spontaneous vocal belting fest. As that famous quote from Bruce Lee states, “…There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” My collection of familiar, favorite tunes is my “plateau,” safe and snuggly like slippers. Indie music is my “beyond.” I have to put in the time—actively seek out the new, listen through a river of umpteen unknown songs, read through a forest of indie reviews, and hope that jumping off the plateau doesn’t leave me hanging. When I do unearth an indie gem that hooks me and holds me above the murky abyss, snagging a coveted spot in my playlist shuffle, I look forward to its refreshing chords and lyrics like a burst of cool air on a hot August hike above treeline.

An omniscient finger points to the lingering fog in the White Mountains, NH.

An omniscient finger points to the lingering fog in the White Mountains, NH.

A recent routine, indie music expedition turned out to be a particularly fruitful search, rewarding me with a plum in the form of “Forest Serenade” by The Joy Formidable from their 2013 album, Wolf’s Law. The Joy Formidable is an alternative rock band from Wales featuring Rhiannon "Ritzy" Bryan on vocals/guitar, Rhydian Dafydd on bass, and Matthew James Thomas on drums. Both Wolf’s Law and the band’s current album, AAARTH, are available on Apple Music, Spotify, TuneIn, etc.

Right from the get-go, the driving guitar and pulsing drums beckon me onward. When Bryan comes in with her intoxicating vocal—which at once conjures both the vocal power of Debbie Harry’s (Blondie) and the lilty quality of Hope Sandoval’s voice (Mazzy Star), I know that the stable certainty of my plateau is gone and there is only…forward. In the first verse, Bryan sings of “an open trail of falling signs…,” which speaks to me from endless winding mountain paths, the kind where I’m so utterly enveloped in green leafy branches and pine needles that I get completely lost in my own trail of thought.

Bryan’s powerful, edgy chorus, insistently scolds “Don’t be the hand that takes…,” reaching out from the sound waves to point a finger at my human failings—and it also makes a satisfying, hardy singalong to fulfill my vocal belting needs. I’ve found that once I started to perform out, it’s been impossible to put that side of me back in. It’s kind of like when the baby alien bursts out of John Hurt’s chest in Alien. That thing isn’t going back in there. Once it’s out, it’s out, and if you’re not careful, it’s going to scuttle off to a corner and grow even bigger…until it devours you. The performing plateau was a scary one to jump from, for sure, but scarier still was not jumping at all and sticking around where a ginormous, bitey alien was most certainly lurking. Oh, and for your viewing pleasure, I give you the Alien “chestburster” scene. Enjoy!

The Joy Formidable is currently touring in the U.S. promoting their newest album, AAARTH, which was also reviewed in the August/September/October 2018 edition of Under The Radar magazine. “Forest Serenade” is a refreshing indie tune that is worth the extra effort. Give it a listen.