Pop Punk Growing Up, Album Review: “Million Dollars to Kill Me” by Joyce Manor

Pomona PR

LA punk band Joyce Manor’s new album shows a maturing group honouring their roots.

“A Million Dollars to Kill Me,” the new album from Los Angeles punk group Joyce Manor, sees the band continuing their departure from the emo-indie sound that carried their first few records. This album is not necessarily intended to appeal to fans of the hardcore style found on the band’s earlier records, but it does provide a palatable entry point for new listeners. The album is full of easy-listens and potential live show sing-alongs.

Perhaps most out of place in the emo-punk genre the band is known for—and yet perfectly fitted into the album—is I’m Not the One, the album’s only acoustic track. Looking back on singer and band leader Barry Johnson’s history of rough, grungy vocals, I’m Not the One was a pleasant surprise. The tune carries the sweetness and passion of a stripped-down Shins track.

“Million Dollars to Kill Me’s” title track is emblematic of Joyce Manor’s stylistic development. The punk roots are still there in the crunching guitar lines. The band’s classic lovesick lyrics: “She’s the only one who could take you to a pawn shop / and sell you for twice what you’re worth”, make an appearance as well.

But, this isn’t the hard-hitting Joyce Manor of past albums “S/T” or “Never Hungover Again.” The boys have grown up a bit now. “Million Dollars to Kill Me” is gentle and introspective, at least for a punk song.

Silly Games follows the title track with a bubble gum pop influenced number featuring crooning vocals from Johnson. Among fans who appreciate the softer side of the band, Silly Games has a lot of potential to become a favourite. It’s similar to the Arctic Monkey’s cover of Barbara Lewis’ Baby, I’m Yours.

The album closes with Johnson’s favourite song on the album: Wildflowers is a “song about light and beauty and wonder that ends the record like a sunrise after a long exhausting night,”: beautifully put by the band itself. It’s a relaxing end to an excellent album.

As other reviews have noted, the Joyce Manor we hear on “Million Dollars to Kill Me” is growing up. They’re taking their time with their songs and allowing their melodies to flush themselves out rather than storming through the album as if they’re late for their next show.

Perhaps the reason behind the development in the band’s sound with this record is its origin. “Million Dollars to Kill Me” started as a collaboration between Johnson and Rory Phillips, a guitarist and lead vocalist for The Impossibles: an alternative rock and ska band from Austin, Texas. The two musicians sent what Johnson called “weird songs that were created with fake drums between two guys who were never in the same room with each other.” After asking Joyce Manor guitarist Chase Knobbe to add some melody to Wildflowers, Johnson realised that the songs were meant to be the next Joyce Manor album. Recording soon commenced at GodCity Studios in Salem, Massachusetts, and Phillips was given credit for his song writing contributions.

Joyce Manor’s European tour (featuring UK alt rock group Basement) comes to the O2 Forum Kentish Town in London on November 22, a show not to be missed.

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