As a big fan of the claustrophobic, 80% cacao gothic new wave that oozed forth from TR/ST’s 2012 debut, I was a bit concerned that the second record would try for a more accessible sound. I mean, if Robert Alfon’s largely incomprehensible rasping wasn’t enough to deter the Mumford and Sons crowd, then surely the cover art of an inebriated, overweight goth would have done the trick.
Sophomore albums are supposed to be polarizing. While the open-minded are generally cool with objectively rating the evolution of a band’s sound, the lazier and shallower among us generally don’t want any fucking around with a successful formula. Sadly, I am one of the troglodytes who fall into the second category. Thankfully, I still enjoyed the record quite a bit.
While Joyland features a more VNV Nation-inspired EBM sound, there is enough familiar territory here to establish immediate likeability while encouraging future listens. The title track is, dare I say it, uplifting; it definitely sounds like Alfons and co. have been listening to the Naked and Famous quite a bit. Though the record sounds much freer as a whole, the mood is still dark, just not oppressively so.
“Barely” is a clear follow-up to “Sulk”, the surprise dancefloor hit off TRST. “Capitol” might be the finest track they’ve put out since “Shoom”; Alfons’ vocal style effect a sense of bold vulnerability that’s perfectly complemented with the shimmering keyboard washes and the soaring chorus that cuts through a thick wall of throbbing bass and electronic beeps. Lead single “Rescue, Mister” is all batcave dance party and will sound familiar to anyone who liked upbeat numbers like “Gloryhole and “Chrissy E” on the first record.