JOYCE MANOR: MILLION DOLLARS TO KILL ME
Million Dollars To Kill Me
Over ten years and five albums, Joyce Manor has become one of L.A.’s most consistent bands. They’ve never attempted a drastic reinvention or even taken a lengthy break between albums. They’ve just gradually shifted from an emo band with power-pop tendencies to a power-pop band with emo tendencies, polishing their recordings and pushing themselves a little further each time. Their latest, Million Dollars To Kill Me, feels like a further strengthening of their assets, reworking the layered and concise songwriting of 2016’s Cody and matching it to the anything-goes approach of their pre-Epitaph days. The album’s stranger moments come from experiments with co-writing—Impossibles frontman Rory Phillips, an idol of frontman Barry Johnson worked on several tracks over email, resulting in the Orange Juice-esque aural SSRI “Wildflowers” and the near-psychedelic “Silly Games,” which features acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, and piano over some of the prettiest harmonies singer/guitarist Barry Johnson and bassist Matt Ebert have ever laid down. Of course, Johnson is lovelorn as ever here: “Big Lie” has him moaning “I wanna be controlled, I think it’d be alright” over chugging power chords that would make Ric Ocasek shed a tear, and the title track’s chorus fawns over a girl who “could take you to a pawn shop and sell you for twice what you’re worth.” Superstar producer Kurt Ballou (Converge, Code Orange, every hardcore band) and mixer Andrew Scheps (uh… Weezer, Green Day and the like) translate that despair and ennui into wall-of-sound therapy, turning a band with a history of hangover lore into a thundering alarm clock for the morning after a hard night. After a decade in the game, Joyce Manor sound bigger than ever—they’re headlining the Palladium in January—but they’re still writing songs that wouldn’t be out of place at VLHS or Bridgetown. Hopefully they can treat us to another decade or two.
JOYCE MANOR’S MILLION DOLLARS TO KILL ME IS OUT FRI., SEPT. 21, ON EPITAPH.