For Fans Of
Cali-punk outfit Joyce Manor once said that: “I know it’s been said a million time
but it really is true… before you can love someone else you need to learn to love Joyce Manor”. Arrogant, as it may be, but they make a very good point. If you don’t embrace their fifth full-length album, ‘Million Dollars to Kill Me‘, you’ll miss out on that nagging relatability that makes Joyce Manor so fucking loveable as a musical collective. The band’s latest record is an emotional experience of understanding the difference between romance and loneliness, and I promise you that you’ll come out of ‘Million Dollars to Kill Me‘ a much better person. Or, at the very least, you may have some closure on old relationships and maybe even some advice when forming new ones. If that’s not the best thing that alternative music like this can do for a soul, then I don’t know what is.
It’s a little hard to explain, but much like a John Hughes film, Joyce Manor’s music really is all about the way it makes you feel sad yet also victorious too. They continue to soundtrack what it’s like to come of age; scoring what it’s like to dip your toes into a world where you fall in love and realise, much like how vocalist Barry Johnson does on this album’s titular track, that you’re nothing without your significant other; you’re nobody without “your someone”. A little more structured and melodic but in classic Joyce Manor fashion, the album’s eponymous first single ‘Million Dollars to Kill Me‘ sums up the trials and tribulations of sharing your heart with someone as Johnson sings honestly about how “nobody tells you it hurts to be loved”. Ooft!
There are singles here like ‘Million Dollars to Kill Me‘ and ‘Think I’m Still In Love With You‘ that are both equally romantic and nostalgic, like in the same way that three-quarters of The Breakfast Club was. But then there’s that vintage Joyce Manor, who make wonderful appearances on ‘Up The Punx‘ and ‘Friends We Met Online‘. On the brief yet bittersweet ‘Up The Punx‘, I have no idea what’s going on lyrically, but sonically it sounds like a sister-take to the band’s classic gem, ‘Catalina Fight Song‘. And I feel like it’s probably about to become my favourite Joyce Manor song ever! On ‘Friends We Met Online‘, Johnson gets direct lyrically just enough that it’s never cringe-worthy; acknowledging the odd but honest subject matter he’s singing about to us by prefacing that he knows “that it sounds kinda lame”. And it very well might sound kinda silly, but I love it all the same.
Johnson’s also not afraid to get right into context to help vary up the record, singing about how everyone needs to document everything in order to feel alive in 2018 on the widescreen and droning hymn of ‘Gone Tomorrow‘. The frontman also struggles with the implications of money and ethics on the record’s acoustic stringer, ‘I’m Not the One‘. Other than their authentic rock dynamic and ear-worming choruses, the self-reflective nature of Joyce Manor has always been one of their most endearing traits as a band. Combine all of that with the fact that Johnson’s strains and aggressions are the most genuine and natural vocals alt-punk has seen for a very long time, there’s something so special about the music these guys create.
There is actual progression on this record, though, despite it still being quintessentially Joyce Manor in a lot of ways. As ‘Silly Games‘ and ‘Wildflowers‘ effectively delve into a rich sonic world that borders on the realms of shoegazey dream pop. In these cases, the band venture off the path a little but not so much as to alienate listeners. Instead, acting as experimental retreats from the hard-riff behaviour of the majority of this stellar album; a natural progression after dabbling in similar waters on ‘Angel in the Snow‘ from their last LP, 2016’s ‘Cody‘.
It’s not at all any effort to take this release in when most songs don’t exceed three minutes, but if you’re going to listen to one song on ‘Million Dollars to Kill Me‘, then please make it ‘Big Lie‘. My expectation is that ‘Big Lie‘ is about to be heralded as an instant classic for the band – listen to it and you’ll know exactly what I mean. “Girls can be kind of controlling“, Johnson croons, adding, “I wanna be controlled, I think it’d be alright“. It continues to shock me that Joyce Manor can be so relevant as to have the impact of either leaving you smiling with ease or about to cry pretty much all of the time with their records. Don’t stress too much if you’re doing either, though. Cause bands this fucking good really do tend to leave a significant mark upon your being.
No matter who you are – whether you just want catchy alternative-emo songs to shout along to or if you’re someone who loves to hurt – Joyce Manor will make you feel something with ‘Million Dollars To Kill Me’. The fact that they’re able to pack so much punch into these new songs that clock at almost no time is a feat in and of itself. Deep diving or just hard-pressed for time, this album is still worth every damn second you spend with it.
Look, we don’t know if the world is going to end tomorrow, or if we’re going to get hit by a bus, or if Jesus Christ himself will pop down for his supposed Second Coming. However, it’s become a certainty over the years that the next Joyce Manor album is always going to be at least as good, if not better than their last one. Which is exactly the case here with ‘Million Dollars To Kill Me’ – a record that I cannot fault.
1. Fighting Kangaroo
2. Think I’m Still In Love With You
3. Big Lie
4. I’m Not the One
5. Million Dollars to Kill Me
6. Silly Games
7. Friends That We Met Online
8. Up the Punx
9. Gone Tomorrow