Album Title: Million Dollars to Kill Me
Band: Joyce Manor
Release: September 21, 2018
Runtime: 22 min
On Tour: right now! Boston Royale on October 10 (getchur tiks)
Recommendations: “Big Lie” and “Gone Tomorrow”
I was late to join the Joyce Manor bandwagon, and when I finally jumped on, it was by way of their most popular song, “Constant Headache.” Where much of Joyce Manor’s existing repertoire hid the vocals beneath heavy instrumentation, “Constant Headache” showcases a hidden lyrical prowess. Anyone who is as obsessed with words as I am would be taken in immediately. I still listen this song pretty frequently—it doesn’t get old. That says something about what kind of music Joyce Manor is ultimately capable of producing, so I’ve kept an eye on them since.
Now, they’re back with ten truncated songs on their new album Million Dollars to Kill Me. Longtime fans will remember the days when Joyce Manor was classified more along the punk spectrum, but since then, the band has drifted more towards the side of indie pop. Instead of a tracklist of nonstop hard-hitting guitar, Million Dollars to Kill Me seeks to soften Joyce Manor’s ragged edges. It juxtaposes punk arrangements with stripped ballads, slowing the momentum of the album in a way that allows for more focus on the lyrical nuances. While their sound is cleaner, tempered by production, they still invoke their punk roots in songs like “Big Lie,” a number that eddies in its verses only to drive forward at once with a strong riff. Here we are reminded of Joyce Manor’s defining pattern—suspension and then halting motion, a balance struck between kinetic instrumentation and patient vocals. They maintain powerful riffs and the energetic burst with which they put forth a short but emotionally charged song. These elements now coalesce with a new softness in accompanying songs (which almost function as interludes).
Joyce Manor is the sound of big ideas in small boxes. They wrestle with a youthful sound in a world that ages; they sing of abstractions (Trying to decide who is good/ And who’s just poor/Baby when we die, yeah/ we’re all gonna want some more) and then get caught in specificities (How can we misremember such sad, horrible times/ Talking to friends, friends that we met online). Akin to the band Modern Baseball, Joyce Manor’s sound belies lyrics that—if encased in different instrumentals—might be perceived as more philosophical than they are currently given credit for. In their song “Gone Tomorrow” (a tune with a sound reminiscent of Grandaddy or The Flaming Lips) it’s as if the band realizes their place in this interstitial space, their confused class in the world of music. They take their lot with stride and lay it out plainly for us:
And gone tomorrow
Not much pain and not much sorrow
Gone tomorrow, but here today
Not much skill for not much pay.
Find their music here and on other music-sharing platforms.