Over the years, Phish has had a knack for writing their own music. I don't mean in the way of coming up with their own compositions of course. What I mean is, they tend to play whatever they feel like regardless of boundaries or social musical norms. Phish revels in the times where they have a chance to produce more music simply for the enjoyment of both their peers and fans. 2009 was not an exception, where Anastasio and company jumped on the chance the rekindle the light that meant so much to them, as well as to many music listeners in the public. What came from this excitement was a bundle of creative happiness aptly titled "Joy". Phish wasn't doing too great during the 2000's, especially in the crowd that enjoy them most for their experimental jazzy qualities as well as their ode-like style reminiscent of Grateful Dead. Phish moved more away from this and closer to a pop-rock, alternative rock style that became explosively prominent during the late 90's and of course the 00's. Starting out the year with Farmhouse, whose title track is the most listened song of their discography to date, the disappointingly bland Round Room in 2002, and Undermind in 2004. Undermind seemed to be the temporary breaking point for these jazz giants, as they quickly descended into a hiatus that lasted a whole five years. As I said before, this created an environment where the entire band was ready to participate wholeheartedly. This also made for a very light-hearted album with more odes to earlier jazz bands, as well as a largely inspired tracklist that has some highlights that are much more melodic for Phish.
Joy starts out with perhaps the happiest song, titled 'Backwards Down The Number Line'. This song I've found to pick me up even when I'm in a bad mood. This is sort of expected, seeing as the song follows the happy highlights and feelings from Anastasio's life. At moments, you can almost notice him smiling during the song. That's something that is hard to do, even for a band like Phish. The track immediately after, 'Stealing From the Faulty Plan', is completely the opposite. A very 70's-esque beat and vocals, with some awesome drumming by Fishman. High pitched guitars lead the way, the way Pink Floyd sort of incorporated it in their more arts-y albums, especially '72 and afterwards. The backstory of the song is also the opposite of it's predecessor, this time following the story of Trey Anastasio's sister's death from cancer. Even with this morbid base the song still seems to throw up very jaunty moods and one of the greatest guitar solos ever to rock the band. The title track is a very...well, earnest. What I mean is, the song is the musical incarnate of good memories, ones that you'd remember from your childhood. In fact, the word "happy" is used numerous times throughout.
After 'Joy', the albums descends more into the jazzy Phish of the 80's and 90's. 'Sugar Shack' combines funk elements with bouncy dual vocals making for a very sing-a-long type track. 'Ocelot' is a clear ode to Grateful Dead, with more barreling piano and country feelings. I don't exactly love it, but it's obvious that the band (especially Anastasio) loves Grateful Dead and decided to make a song dedicated to their main influence. 'Kill Devil Falls', by no means a bad track, is perhaps my least favorite. It has a very boring mood that ceases to interest me very well. Again, not awful but definitely the one song that I'd pass. 'Light' has some interesting and unexpected Who-ish elements, especially with the gravely guitar and fluid drumming. 'I Been Around' is basically a little quick, funny song made solely by Page McConnell. I love the song just for it's comedic, almost skit styling, as well as of course Page's piano skills. The microphone effects makes it seem like he's almost right in front of you. 'Time Turns Elastic' is another one of my favorites. This thirteen minute long epic encompasses so much that I love about Phish, that it's hard to explain them all. I suggest that you listen to it for yourself to get really in touch with it, because this song is not only very progressive, but simply good. 'Twenty Years After' is the closer, and very much like 'Kill Devil Falls', is pretty boring. Although more compositionally complex, the songs retains mostly the same features that made me not like the former. Some interesting parts I've found to intrigue me, which at the very least kept me pretty enthralled to listen to it all the way through and come back to it occasionally.
This album is something that I never expected liking so much, but I've found that giving it a chance and a thorough listen, that it is definitely a great album by any standards. Therefore, I give this album a rating of 4.5/5, and suggest that you go listen to it. Maybe it will fill you with as much joy as it did for me.