Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Given the sheer number of bands vying for attention across the dubious umbrella genre of indie rock, the Joy Formidable’s bombastic brand of prog rock is both unique and deserving of much more attention. Three albums in, Hitch feels like the ultimate statement from the trio of Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan (vocals, guitar), Rhydian Dafydd (bass) and Matthew James Thomas (drums). Between The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law, they amped up across the board with powerful guitar solos and soaring choruses. By comparison, Hitch is positively unrelenting. Not only does the album approach the 70-minute mark, but it’s filled with epic six-and-a-half-minute rockers. Grandiose doesn’t begin to cover the scale and audacity of the Joy Formidable’s output. Just under four minutes, opener “A Second in White” is on the short side for Hitch but is a good gauge for the range of this album. At its height, the track is a dizzying flurry of drums and guitar, but the downbeat chorus highlights Bryan’s breathy vocals and gives a glimpse of her guitar skills when not in squelching solo mode. That said, the top half of this album is stacked with driving rock. “Radio of Lips” has a killer guitar hook and rightly earns the title of anthemic thanks to its unrelenting energy and Thomas’ proto-metal drums. Lead single “The Last Thing on My Mind” would be a near-perfect blues-indebted rocker if it weren’t for the studio banter that precedes the actual song. It’s an odd comedown from “Radio of Lips” that produces more impatience than anticipation. Some tracks, however, lean more toward pummeling listeners with thundering guitar and drums, putting Bryan’s vocals on the back burner. “It’s Started” features the heaviest riffage on the entire album. Likewise, the combination of gritty riffs and military-time drums on “Running Hands with the Night” can barely contain themselves during Bryan’s whispered verses. “Liana” is the most deceptive track, beginning like a Stevie Nicks power ballad and showing an underappreciated side to the Joy Formidable. But around the halfway mark, it opens the floodgates and unleashes an epic breakdown. For all the band’s skill with blistering anthems, it has a softer side that comes through on the latter half of Hitch. Bryan’s impressive pipes are the focal point on “The Brook,” an acoustic-tinged ballad that boasts a surprising number of sonic twists and turns. “Underneath the Petal” is truly acoustic, stripped down to Bryan’s vocals and finger-picked guitar with the later addition of piano, strings and flute. The only track that doesn’t put Bryan front and center is the Dafydd-led “The Gift.” A drone of brass-tinged synths creates a sobering atmosphere for what is essentially a musical interlude to take the sting off of the album’s first half. Acoustics carry into closing track “Don’t Let Me Know” and make for an atmospheric shoegaze-y sound. It’s fitting that the album fades into a sputtering electronic crescendo, albeit one that soothes rather than stirs. Despite the prevalence of chugging riffs and bombastic drums on Hitch, the album is a great showcase for the Joy Formidable’s range. And it does need those acoustic interludes and downtempo tracks to balance out the squealing guitars of “Radio of Lips” or “It’s Started.” But Hitch is still at its best when the band is giving these songs everything they’ve got: non-stop guitar, pounding drums and irresistible basslines that lead into epic choruses. It’s unapologetic music that just wants to rock out for the sake of rocking out, and it does it well.