By Daniel Levy
The modern era of Prog has many varied styles and different kinds of bands, and one of the bands that has consistently been difficult to label has been JOLLY. Now functioning mostly as a part-time outfit, JOLLY is an independent band that still finds a way to create new music and do some shows occasionally, most recently opening for Riverside in NY and heading to Europe for some shows, as well. The quartet has been working hard on the sequel to their double-album 2013’s The Audio Guide to Happiness Pt 1 & 2, and thanks to the help of dedicated fans who helped fund the album on Patreon, the long-awaited new studio record, Family, is finally upon us. JOLLY was able to put everything they could on this album. Some of the songs have been out for a while, having been released over the last 2 years as they were recorded through the Patreon program. Fans that contributed, have already been sent the full album. Family finds the band revisiting the same style and sound that they are well known for, with some new elements incorporated. If you have been a fan of JOLLY in the past, this is definitely an album you will want to check out.
The album begins with “Lie to Me”, a song that shows a lot of JOLLY’s strengths. The heavy sound is not overwhelming and is generally accompanied by some very tasteful keyboard sounds. Both verses and choruses are catchy and feature great vocal melodies while the song shifts from heavier sections to mellow ones. The second track “Lazarus (Space Masala)” continues the trend of great and catchy choruses while having an incredible guitar solo by frontman Anadale. It’s then followed by “Rain”, a beautiful ballad with lots of eerie sounds. The band explores lots of melodic alternatives and in this case, the background vocals in contrast to the main ones are what bring it home.
An impossibly catchy melody on the synth opens the song “Ava”, one of the highlights on the record. Its format is very classic feel, yet JOLLY makes it interesting and most importantly, fun to listen to. Be careful with this one as it might just be stuck in your head for days. “Who Will Remember (When You Forget)” is basically an intro for the 10-minute-long “Let Go”, one of the best tracks the band has produced. This one goes everywhere – it starts with a simple but pleasant verse which then unfolds into a beautifully orchestrated piano & acoustic guitar section that builds itself back up. There’s also the heaviest part of the record here, with great double pedal usage by excellent drummer Louis Abramson. The nuanced sounds used here are brilliant, bringing life to the main melody all the way through the end, keeping the piece compelling altogether.
The emotionally dense “Violet” is next – although it starts off sounding more like electronic lounge music, it turns around itself and follows setting a great mood. Then, a quirky robot voice introduces “Circuit Heaven”, a very enjoyable addition to the album. The tune is groovy, clearly technically challenging and with plenty of small details all across it, one of the great qualities of the album as a whole.
To close the album, “With Me” goes through a slower route to become the perfect way to end a great album. The ballad keeps it simple but sweet through most of it and finishes off powerfully with the guitar and vocals playing the main theme. If you still want more though, Family also has Disc 2 with bonus tracks, three of them being original ones and great songs on their own and another two being alternate versions of “Let Go” and “Ava”.
Family is a very ambitious record in the way it is carefully constructed. It’s not as high energy as JOLLY’s past work but the attention to detail is very apparent. The album is heavy and powerful and feels fresh and new. The band took their time to release it and it was clearly for the best as it turned out to be another excellent addition to 2019’s great lineup of prog albums. While you can check out some of the tracks available online on the band’s YouTube channel, the album will be available on streaming services when it released on June 22nd. However, this is definitely one of those albums worth buying, proving that JOLLY really does love you.
Key tracks – Ava, Let Go, Lazarus (Space Masala)
1. Lie to Me
2. Lazarus (Space Masala)
5. Who Will Remember (When You Forget)
6. Let Go
8. Circuit Heaven
9. With Me
Anadale – guitars/vocals
Anthony Rondinone – bass
Louis Abramson – drums
Joe Reilly – keyboards