Until the COVID-19 pandemic altered the entire global landscape, I had planned to post this quick album review on March 19th but then this novel coronavirus began to take over my corner of the world and I had some strong opinions that needed venting. Needless to say, the concert discussed in this review has long since been cancelled along with my plans to travel from Michigan to California to attend it but finding joy is as important—if not more important—now than ever, so, belatedly, here are 250 words about an EP that I’ve enjoyed.
In a couple of months I’ll be heading out to California to see The Receiving End of Sirens and Envy on the Coast play the type of reunion show that I’d probably call a shameless cash grab if only I weren’t so ecstatically excited to attend it. Both bands were hugely important to me during their mid-2000s heyday and while The Receiving End of Sirens has been survived by Casey Crescenzo’s ongoing efforts with The Dear Hunter, save for a few tracks here and there, Envy on the Coast’s key players were mostly silent from 2010’s Lowcountry through 2017’s unexpected reunion EP, Ritual.
The standout track on Ritual was undoubtedly “Virginia Girls,” a Sublime-influenced soul-rock experience that pushed stylistic elements that the band had experimented with on Lowcountry to a whole new place. But Ritual seems to have been a limited time engagement. Years after its release no new Envy on the Coast material seems to be forthcoming but EOTC fanboys can rest easy. Ryan Hunter and Brian Byrne, the driving force of Envy on the Coast, are back as Violent Joy with a self-titled EP that feels like the logical follow up to Ritual.
Highlighted by its closing two tracks, the hook-driven “Bored to Tears” and the sultry “1000 Gods”, Violent Joy is exactly the kind of release that fans of Lowcountry and Ritual have been asking for. Hunter’s distinct and wondrously affected vocals dance across compositions that simmer low before burning bright and hot. It’s still winter but these are excellent summer songs.