Review: Joyce Manor ‘Million Dollars to Kill Me’
California-based indie rock outfit Joyce Manor returns with its fifth studio album. Merely two years after their previous release “Cody”, the band continues this progression
on “Million Dollars to Kill Me”.
Initially making waves back in the early 2010’s with a more signature raw sound and emotionally charged stories typically told in under two minutes. Joyce Manor has since largely departed from said style for a more melodically emo driven pop appeal while holding onto the same emotional storytelling elements that brought them a large underground following.
The new album consists of one sweet sounding poppy tale after another as the song writing takes full control of the wheel. “Think I’m Still In Love With You” is a perfect example of this as singer Barry Johnson laments about entering a relationship he doesn’t truly desire in order to protect someone he cares about far more. From beginning to end, the song is driven with
power pop instrumentals reminiscent of old school Weezer if they had a bit more edge to them. It’s a formulaic yet entrancing song. “I’m Not The One” takes the band in a direction seldom heard of as they pull out an acoustic guitar ballad. In an interview with Stereogum, it was noted that the lyrics largely revolve around money.
“I’m Not the One” was prompted by Johnson’s musings over “Rich people wanting to be good people” — Elon Musk, the USC Jimmy Iovine, and Andre Young Academy, etc. — but it puts his own peers on trial.” The word “musing” applies quite well as Johnson’s voice sounds truly contemplative and sad. As the song progresses so do the instrumentals and it only gets more and more cheerful sounding despite the lyrical content. It’s grand in a simplistic way that feels rewarding to sit through.
“Big Lie” is likely the song most true to the band’s roots, tapping into a lot of their initial punk influences. The story continues with the reflective tone, analyzing a relationship as well as the life that lead up to it and the life that follows. It begins slowly with a melody that beautifully teams up with the song writing to set up the gloriously emotional instrumental chorus. By the end of the song you feel closer to the singer and want him to be happy by any means possible.
While it doesn’t always feel like the same band who angrily broke through all those years ago, the new iteration of Joyce Manor is still a welcome breath of fresh air in its own way. Their continued progression should be interesting to watch develop further.