Released: 21st September 2018
Growing old sucks. Compared to the freewheeling excitement of youth, there’s nothing more crushing than knowing you’ve found your place in the world, forgoing continued self-discovery for a comfortable rut.
Five albums deep and California’s Joyce Manor remain wide-eyed protagonists of that youthful exuberance. Sure, they’ve found a comfy niche of sorts – two-minute pop song bangers that dissect the human condition – but vocalist and lyricist Barry Johnson’s world-building and story-telling continue to elevate Joyce Manor to exceptional new highs. ‘Million Dollars To Kill Me’ is no exception.
Much of ‘Million Dollars To Kill Me’ focuses on ideas of growing older; friendships, money, relationships and more. Always sincere, there nevertheless remains an irreverence about the likes of ‘Up The Punks’ and ‘Friends We Met Online’ that rivals the Kanye West name-dropping ‘Fake ID’ off 2016’s ‘Cody’.
There’s also a wistfulness to much of ‘Million Dollars…’ as Joyce Manor grapple with the implications of ageing at the expense of their wilder younger days. “Is it true you knew I’d miss you, back when we were little kids,” asks Johnson on opener ‘Fighting Kangaroo’, and it’s a moment that sets the tone for the album. Elsewhere, this passage of time is more pronounced – ‘I think I’m Still In Love With You’ is a heart-on-sleeve anthem for unrequited or long lost love, time a key component of its emotional resonance.
It’s worth noting that ‘Million Dollars…’ sounds fantastic too. No doubt working with Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith) on ‘Cody’ has helped accentuate Joyce Manor’s pop sensibilities, but here, working with Converge’s Kurt Ballou, these tendencies are pushed to the front and centre, especially on the title track and Teenage Fanclub-style pop of ‘Silly Games’.
There’s even space for growth; the spellbinding ballad ‘I’m Not The One’ might just be Joyce Manor’s finest moment to date, while the laidback West Coast vibe of ‘Wildflowers’ is a calm and considered ending to yet another stellar collection.
Tellingly, for all this talk of ageing, there’s not a jot of world-weariness to be found in the belly of ‘Million Dollars…’. Instead, Joyce Manor continue to stylishly wring every conceivable emotion from every frayed sub-two minute pop-punk song, making it yet another excellent addition to their exceptional canon.