Review: On ‘Further Joy,’ the Regrettes reimagine themselves as indie pop stars

The Regrettes tackle the highs and lows of lockdown and young adulthood in “Further Joy,” their third studio album and first full-length release since 2019.

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Susan Behrends Valenzuela

The Regrettes’ latest album, “Further Joy,” was released on April 8. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

MaryCharlotte Barnes, Contributing Writer

The Regrettes’ latest release, “Further Joy,” is a snappy statement of independence. The 13-track album makes it clear that the California-based foursome haven’t lost their teeth in a shift from their punk rock origins to more pop-focused work.

The album’s lead single, “Monday,” sets the tone for the entire record in the first verse: “These growing pains / They push me ’til I break.” Lead singer and songwriter Lydia Night takes the album’s nearly 44-minute runtime to tell us in extreme detail exactly why and how she’s been broken and how she’s kept going, starting with the title of the album. “That phrase, ‘further joy,’ summarized what it meant to be on the hamster wheel of constantly chasing happiness, but in turn, that’s what makes you unhappy,” Night said in a press release.

The band’s first album since 2019’s “How Do You Love?” and written entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Night draws serious inspiration from the ups and downs of lockdown. The track layout reflects this uncertainty — rapidly ping-ponging from singing about deep, complex love affairs to anxiety, eating disorders and difficult relationships — but always to an up-tempo beat.

“Further Joy” is a significant departure from the garage punk-rock sound that coated their previous works, which had earned them early comparisons to the riot grrrl movement, and instead leans into sweeping synths and bouncing pop beats. This genre shift doesn’t stop the band from continuing to tackle heavy issues in their lyrics —it’s just over synths instead of a shredding guitar.

“Subtleties (Never Giving Up On You)” is a track that exemplifies the power of this record to transform The Regrettes into masters of hiding the frustrations, anxieties and growing pains of young adulthood behind easily digestible and downright catchy pop tracks. In the twisting, excitable bridge, Night sings, “Why can’t I feel it? / I know it’s right there / Almost can taste it / Feel the joy in the air / Why am I so scared / Of lookin’ at my mirror / And seein’ who I am?”

This track is a window into powerful self-doubt masked behind a sugar-sweet exterior, making listeners do a double take while still tapping their toes along. 

Night — along with bandmates bassist Brooke Dickson, guitarist Genessa Gariano and drummer Drew Thomsen — presents a straightforward look into the pandemic brain of early 20-somethings. It’s a relatable jumble of how impossibly hard life can feel sometimes and how imperative it is to move forward. 

The album clocks in at a reasonable 44 minutes; however, some tracks might make you wish they had tightened up the record. “La Di Da,” halfway through the album, lands awkwardly next to its more suave, catchy counterparts. The refrain “I hold my ears down / Drown it all out / Singin’ la-da-da-di-da-di-da” fails to accomplish the intended lighthearted, anxiety-can-suck-it message and ends up as a four-minute drag. 

Though some tracks might seem a tad repetitive, there are several that stand out as concert-ready in their exuberance. “Show Me You Want Me” allows the listener to jump into a lighthearted and sexy call to a lover: “But all we got is time, take a piece of mine / You’re everything I want, if you want it feel me right.” And the opening track “Anxieties (Out of Time),” makes anxiety sound more enjoyable than it’s ever been before with its shout-along chorus: “Are we just forever runnin’ out of time? / Missin’ how it feels to really be alive / Knock me down-down, up, back down.”

The Regrettes shine in “Further Joy” when they reach right for the edge of human emotion and then take the leap — all with a knowing smile and a catchy hook. Pushing the status quo is nothing new to the quartet, whose debut 2016 single “A Living Human Girl” was an ode to all the ways young women are bound by society: “So if you want to criticize me, go ahead, take a look / I’m not being bossy, I’m saying how I feel / And I’m not a bitch for stating what is real.” The band, all teenagers at the time, screeched their way into the punk scene and quickly declared their intentions in the song, singing “I’m still gonna be here even after your best shot,” an assertion that’s still true six years later. 

“Further Joy” is a rousing reminder that anxiety and love of life often go hand in hand — you have to first let go of your own expectations to realize that. Although the album isn’t perfect, it’s overwhelmingly human in its attempts to turn pandemic-era ups and downs into tracks that have you dancing along while contemplating your own mortality.

Contact MaryCharlotte Barnes at [email protected]