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I think one of the most cop-out arguments when someone doesn’t like a band’s new record is because they say all their music sounds the same. Despite that, I’ll be honest in saying I definitely would think of Joyce Manor’s early work in that same light. Cody definitely stepped outside of that bubble and their most recent record, Million Dollars to Kill Me, followed suit.
I’ve never gotten the chance to go to a Joyce Manor show, but I always imagined being at a venue like Chain Reaction, screaming to their lyrics with a as many people pushed up against me as possible. It’s one of those shows where you’re hot and drenched with sweat—not only from your own body, but the perspiration of everyone in the crowd. The beat drops on the ground, vibrating throughout the venue and then finds its way into your chest; your heart pounds to the music while your body gets smashed into everyone around you. You feel alive. Unfortunately, I still won't get to see them tour this album since I'm unable to attend their January show at Los Angeles' Palladium, but I hope that's the experience all the fans at that show get.
Joyce Manor is a band I’ve always really liked. To be honest, I think part of the reason is because I think it’s cool that they’re from Torrance, CA, which is where I grew up and currently reside. I feel a sense of pride in that, but that could just be because that's one of the cooler things about this mundane town. I also thought it was pretty cool when Barry Johnson, the band's lead singer, was very outspoken over the dangers of stage diving. It's not something that I actively hate, but I've been at plenty of shows where people have gotten knocked out because of the recklessness of fans who fling theirselves on top of anyone in the pit. Johnson was worried about his fans and trying to protect them, all the while not giving a shit when other people in the scene had some other opinions on the whole thing, creating a sort of pop-punk controversy. Still, this was something that I thought was super interesting and I liked how he used his voice on Twitter regarding those kinds of harmful situations.
At just 22 minutes, their fifth record gives listeners a very new sound while at the same time, sticking to their post-punk roots. It sets a different tone than their prior work, with a seemingly lighter mood. Million Dollars to Kill Me can make any listener realize that they’re not just the typical emo, pop-punk band of 20-something dudes still singing about teenage angst and girls… well, all of that is definitely still there, but it’s different. They’ve successfully matured their sound using sub genres of music, songs highlighting the sounds of California surf rock while still making it sound like a Joyce Manor album. And while their sound evolved, so did their lyrics. You have songs like the album’s opener, "Fighting Kangaroo," to the album’s closing track, "Wildflowers," two songs that are polar opposite in sound yet represent the album as a whole. Then there’s "Gone Tomorrow," speaking about the sad reality of how we’re all here, but for what purpose, really? It’s unknown and probably always will be. There aren’t as many coming-of-age songs anymore, cause let’s face it, they’re grown up. This album gives me the idea that they’re more confident with their sound, or at least more confident with experimenting. This all started to become evident with Cody, since each track isn’t as buried in noise as they used to do in their earlier tracks.
Million Dollars to Kill Me is an album that I’ve listened to over a dozen times, and I’m not tired of it yet. I think they did a great job at showing us that they've been able to mature their sound while still sounding like themselves. It’s a record that makes me proud to be a Joyce Manor fan, and definitely the one I’d give to someone if I wanted to introduce them to their music.