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The Otherly Opus
Artist: Joy Electric
Label: Tooth and Nail Records
Length: 10 tracks
A year and a half after the release of Joy Electric’s then most left-field and cryptic work to date, The Otherly Opus arrives as a clear progressive development of the warmer, fuller sounds of the menacing The Ministry of Archers.  While resembling the song writing of its forerunner, Ronnie Martin has chosen to steer things in a fresh direction musically for his new release - TOO is a “vocals” album, melodically rich and deeply layered, the synths reigned-in and controlled like never before, producing a sound that feels nearly symphonic in nature and approaches an epic whimsical scope similar to the fan and critical favorite The White Songbook, marking TOO as one of Joy Electric’s most outstanding and distinctive albums yet.

As Ronnie himself inclines, Joy Electric has always remained in a relatively similar style throughout the decade and a half of the band’s career.  A clear refinement in song writing can be sensed through each new album progressively, and in many ways, The Otherly Opus carries on this refinement.  The new songs are all fantastically catchy and memorable, familiar to past Joy Electric staples of nostalgic ballads, fantastical pop-punk, and danceable bubbly pop.  But while this feels whole and through like a new Joy Electric recording, TOO feels musically unlike anything that the band has put out before.
A thick chorus of vocals dominate every song, both enriching lead melodies and dynamically stressing them with counter-melodies and starker underlying tones.  The synths are still certainly there, but they now play a lesser – though not less important than – role in the music alongside the spectacular vocals.  It’s an orchestra of sound that Ronnie has crafted, sheds the structured and mechanical nature of most of the rest of the Legacy series, while still remaining in the construct of Joy Electric’s signature quirky pop.  
The duality of TOO’s themes is apparent – the first half is classic Joy Electric, the latter a collection of songs dealing with Biblical antediluvian accounts - but not so much that the album in its entirety feels out of balance.  There are elements of mythical whimsy in the first half (the title-track) and melancholic nostalgia in the second (“Ponderance Need Not Know”), and most of the lyrics throughout remain uniformly cryptic.  With a couple moments of extreme lyrical repetition, it is combined the most potentially difficult element of the new album, and may take some patience to get used to.
Though that initial period of patience and training on the part of the listener exists, this is still an amazing recording, possibly the most melodically rich and unique collection of pop songs ever released by Joy Electric, nullifies many of the criticisms laid against the band in the past– weak vocals, a lack of progressive style – and asserts unquestionably that Joy Electric is one of the most worthwhile bands in the Christian industry.  It’s the result of a hard-working and unfortunately oft disregarded artist staying true to his love for his craft, and the result is something brilliant.  It may not appeal to many, but TOO deserves my highest recommendation possible and could end up being one of the best pop records of the year.
Jonathan Avants 3/31/07



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