Following 2005’s confident and expansive Devil’s Blues, Joy take a moment to rest and reflect — and while most do this with a vacation or a long sit in a comfy chair — the men of Joy take to the basement and the recording studio. The results of this taking-stock is a new EP Sailing Days, and it’s the goodness. While not as world-conquering as Devil’s Blues, it still kicks off with one of that album’s strongest tracks, the intricate, exuberant “Tiger’s Paws” where sunbursts of gently picked guitar intertwine again and again like a Gordian knot over paintbrushed percussion and androgynous, gentle vocals, climbing ever upwards towards the blue sky. “Sailing Days” strips away much of the previous song’s flourishes for a more shuffling, accidental sound full of lo-fi and old country grit. “Blue Light” is a relaxed, atmospheric waltz with the traditional backwoods sonics of Joy bolstered by banjo, strings and teardrops of mandolin during the chorus. Shades of the Bands’ Music From Big Pink! I’m smitten. And sometimes every instrument drops out, leaving only the drums, swinging softly, waiting for another instrument to join in for a effortless solo spot. There’s just such a sense of easy camaraderie and self-expression in this number. “Sex” ends the album with a slow, hymn-like build toward a crescendo of harmonizing falsettos and ringing acoustic guitars; worth every moment.
Lots of bands, both big and small, are trying way too hard and spending way too much money to do what Joy is doing.