JoyFocus - 'Random Access Digital Audio Heresy'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to be tackling ‘Random Access Digital Audio Heresy,’ a new album from the duo JoyFocus. The outfit has been a mainstay in the independent music scene for the better part of almost two decades. Let’s learn a bit about them to give some context to the record...

JoyFocus consists of Rikk Currence and Holly Joy Currence. Based out of the western suburbs of Illinois, the two have been collaborating under the moniker of JoyFocus since 1998. They’ve released a number of studio efforts since then with ‘Random Access Digital Audio Heresy’ clocking in as their fifth major release. Essentially, the collaboration involves Rikk on production and instrumental duties and Holly Joy on vocals. (I typically don’t refer to musicians by their first names, but we’ll have to make an exception in this review for obvious reasons.)

When I review an entire album, I typically listen to it through three or four times to feel it out. With this album, I found myself foot tapping and singing along as I wandered my apartment doing chores. On my second and third listens, I sat down and spent some time analysing the production and composition of the songs. Right off of the bat, it’s worth noting that this is an incredibly empowering, catchy, and exciting collection of songs.

JoyFocus writes modern arena rock with a heavy inspirational twist. Basically, the album is an outcry of individuality. Breaking out of the norm, revolting against societal standards, and remaining resolute and unafraid are the important things to take out of this album. JoyFocus won’t retreat into the night, even though many have written them off or misunderstood them. In that regard, JoyFocus succeeds at their first and debatably most important motivation: to be the anthem of the underdog. These songs are filled with inspirational lyricism and powerful production, the kind of music that may be best suited for a workout montage or Sylvester Stallone’s iPod.

In terms of production, Rikk does a remarkable job. The percussion is always perfectly in step, the electric guitar drives with cataclysmically epic riffs, and there’s all sorts of goodies scattered throughout. How about that string section in the first track, ‘Retreat’? Absolutely stunning. Or the incredible guitar solo section on ‘Break’? Equally wonderful. Vocally, Holly Joy manages to hold her own elegantly against such a cinematic soundscape. She commands your attention and never falters on a note.

‘Clearly’ is the unexpected highlight of the record. This power-ballad is one to take serious note of. In particular, the lyricism on this track is what makes it so important. It’s the best written song on the album. One of the problems that JoyFocus runs into on this record is it can get a bit repetitive. The subject matter of the songs is too similar at times. We won’t break, we won’t retreat, we’ll revolt, we’ll overcome, etc. A few of these songs blend together as one epic anthem. While inspirational feel-good rock and roll is always welcome on a record, this outing staggers at times because there is a tad too much of it.

‘Satellite’ and ‘Home’ break the mold of tracks like ‘Revolution’ and ‘Retreat’ and finish out the collection very well. The string-heavy ‘Home’ is a perfect closing to a rather good record. It feels like a resolution to an album of chaos. They’re arriving home; they’ve overcome those obstacles and they’re better for it. They’ve found where they belong. That’s a heartfelt sentiment that sticks with you at the end of this album.

At the end of the day, this is a fantastic offering from two very seasoned musical veterans. If it’s only fault is that it’s repetitive on a few tracks, that’s a fault that can easily be overlooked. It’s a wonderful little record perfect for one of those days when you could use some ‘pick me up’ music. That’s what this music does. It elevates your mood, and in honesty, I think that’s the entire point. Good job, JoyFocus. I feel quite inspired right now.

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