The biggest grumble with Joy Again’s EP, Piano, is that, by virtue of being an EP, it’s far too short. The Philadelphia-based indie rock weirdos—helmed by Arthur Shea and Sachi DiSerafino—give us a scant seven songs and peace out well before the party even starts to wind down. But in those seven songs, they are the party, commanding an audience of fellow musically-inclined oddballs as they bounce from sing-along ready grooves to sincere explorations with bit of early-20s brokenhearted pettiness added in.
Right off the top, Joy Again opens things up with the summery “Abaigh’s Song,” a track that’s grounded by jangle-pop guitars and elevated with vintage computer flourishes. It showcases DiSerafino’s vocals, which are like a mouthful of Lemonheads, sweet and sour all at once, in and out almost too quickly. Don’t let the heavy guitars fool you—it’s immensely playful, a Technicolor backyard jam buoyed by the electronic punch.
“My Secret Special Medicine,” may not be as melodically delicious as “Abaigh’s Song,” relying instead on nasally sing-song and wide, static drums, but it does include what might be the summer’s most spectacular line: “In the compost heap / That’s where you’ll bury me / Please re-use my rotting flesh.”
But it’s not all fun and games and decay, and the band shows that they are capable of the more serious side of things. Lead single “Couldn’t” has a retro MTV feel, a melancholy reminiscent of Mark Mulcahy or Young the Giant, digital heart in hands.
Similarly, “I’m Your Dog,” leans heavily on distortion, both in vocals and guitar, proving they can do ballads as well as they do pop songs. They’re not afraid to let the electronic pulses drop into unexpected places, including a sudden explosion in the bridge that surprises, but doesn’t distract: the sonic equivalent of mixing patterns. In a less stylish set of hands, it might sound like a walking nightmare, but Shea and DiSerafino know that a little goes a long way. Even “Country Song” recognizes its roots and plays cleverly with them, augmenting a dusty, sun-drenched ballad with Victrola voice effects and easy twine guitars.
“Disorder” is Piano’sweakest track, with high-paced Muppet-y synths and laser-lightshow keys that don’t quite fall in line with the rest of the song. The closing track, “Rats,” does it better, cramming a chewy tumble of words into hard pounding melodies before relaxing into a slower, more sincere second half. With lyrics like “I can’t believe you gave me your disease / You’re an asshole to me,” it’s got a surprisingly charming petulance reminiscent of The Drums.
Joy Again has teased us long enough with singles and EPs. It’s time for a full-length album to give listeners an even better range of what the self-described collective is capable of producing. But until then, Piano is enough of an appetizer to tide you over.