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The Deli Philly's July Record of the Month: You're So Smart - Joy Riding





The Deli Philly's July Record of the Month: You're So Smart - Joy Riding

Part pop punk, part emo revival - Joy Riding's debut full-length, You're So Smart, is a suitable pick-me-up for the summer/life, in general. Released last month by Black Rd Records, the band’s 10-track slew of anthems will most definitely make you nostalgic for indie greats like Hey Mercedes and Saves the Day, while still managing to be inventive.

The cynical romantics of the album's opener, much like Brand New's "Mixtape" or Weezer's problematic yet beloved "El Scorcho," couple disdain with unfettered feelings and tangible hope. A more tempered musing on longing than what Joy Riding’s predecessors offered in the early aughts, “Golden” is frank but endearing, two elements which make the track memorable long before its end. “Suzie Lynn” starts with buzzing notes and finessed reverb, evolving quickly into an ode for a hesitant sweetheart. Reminiscent of Relient K at their best or Kenny Vasoli circa 2002, You’re So Smart’s second track is brooding, lush, and self-aware, offering its audience a vivid portrait of plausible intimacy before its frenzied start or inevitable demise which is quickly followed by the synth filled thrill of “Different Shapes.” Tastefully retro and awash in guitar, shimmering cymbals, and a New Wave worthy backbeat, Joy Riding’s third offering is difficult not to love. When lead vocalist Joseph Ryans croons, “You fall in love every single day/You’ve got a lot of things you want to say to me,” it feels like an invitation to wear your heart on your sleeve. The album's title track is a sentimental yet satisfying ballad bound to bring to mind early cuts by The Get Up Kids or Copeland. Perhaps a bit more jaded than “Different Shapes” and “Suzie Lynn,” “You’re So Smart” excavates the existential root of desire with lines like - “They say love, it never becomes fun/until you swallow every bitter pill and let it go to hell” and by asking “Are we just too far gone?”

“Cool Band” examines the difference between authenticity and pretension, along with the pitfalls of curating one’s personal pain for the sake of an audience. The sweeping riffs and textured vocals of “For Jessica” are filled with urgency and a latent promise of autonomy, which is fully realized mid-song, when Ryans sings, “You just left him for dead… You just left and laughed him off.” However, with “For Jessica,” the band celebrates the way that distance can lead to closure and a fresh start in the wake of a romance’s end, while the electronic bleep and heartwarming chords of “Hail Mary” will make you either think about the bae that got away or the bae you're currently with. It’s a fervent prayer for lovers who believe in second chances. Like a less dreary rendition of Death Cab For Cutie’s “Title Track,” the following track, “Tarrytown,” makes the most of atmosphere with the staccato click of drum sticks and subtle snare. It’s similarly cinematic, offering itself as a ready-made soundtrack for drives at dusk or boozy nights spent willingly or unwillingly alone. The song’s narrative is familiar yet hopeful in a believably bearable way. Although not as optimistic as the preceding track, “Marie & Me” is admirably brazen and melodic. Between astute observations and demands, its narrator highlights the benefits of boundaries and letting things go, which are two of the many themes that bleed into the album’s finale, “Grad School,” a well-chosen end to a nearly faultless album. You’re So Smart’s closer is a meditation on friendship, transitions, and endings. Like an audible embodiment of memento mori, “Grad School” urges listeners that “You can’t win if you don’t try.”

From start to finish, Joy Riding’s LP is an introspective celebration of intimacy, new beginnings, and the psyche’s shortcomings without melodrama or overt misogyny. One can only wonder how pop punk and emo would have evolved the first time around if more bands were as earnest as this. - Dianca London

This Emerging Artist is based in Philadelphia,
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