No matter which way you choose to pronounce Joywave’s latest record – “CON-tent” versus “con-TENT” – the alt-pop album came highly anticipated. The jury is still out on whether or not it lived up to the hype, however. It’s definitely different from their typical smooth-and-shiny sound, but lyrics based around being unable to connect simply echo sentiments from what seems like dozens of other bands lately.
One thing I’ve learned this week: never judge an album by its opening track. “Content” feels disjointed, like the chaotic static is too forced. It’s a far cry from the Joywave that created the shiny-happy “SWISH” and “How Do You Feel Now?”, and the bursts of static seem to prioritize sounding edgy over the catchiness of the track. Thankfully, the band makes a shift back to their typical smooth, synth-filled indie pop sound after the first song.
As lead singer Daniel Armbruster sings about not being able to connect for eleven songs, it comes across as a mid-life crisis – although there are standout tracks. “Shutdown”, for example, is like the sound of the wind blowing on a cool summer day and has just enough of that chaotic edge to bring a kick to the song. “Rumors” is a little more futuristic, with strong EDM vibes and sound effects. As an album, the nuggets of darkness buried within the otherwise glowing synth-pop aren’t as cohesive as I’d hoped, but certain songs can be pulled from the bunch.
“Content” is not quite the mainstream glossiness that I’d expected from Joywave, but it’s nothing revolutionary, either. It feels as though everybody is singing about a lack of connection lately – just listen to Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now”, which Pitchfork tore apart here. That’s a whole other issue, though – sure, “Content” seems to be one big existential crisis, but there are pockets of solid synthpop. “Shutdown” has made its way into the rotation of my summer playlists, and “It’s A Trip!” feels light and fluffy enough to carry me away.