Joyce Manor Prove How to Age Well and Not Completely Sell Out

Joyce Manor was formed back in 2008 and let’s just say right out the door they have certainly aged well musically on their new album, Million Dollars to Kill Me. From more punk-leaning music to softer rock they know how to change yet they haven’t lost what makes them who they are. If anything, they have embraced the fact that they are getting older, and well, things can’t always stay the same.

After having both Never Hungover Again (#106) and Cody (#192) break into the Billboard charts, the band shows no sign of slacking after a decade of creating music. They are constantly adapting all while achieving a rare feat – not selling out completely.

Joyce Manor’s lead vocalist, Barry Johnson manages to deliver an almost flawlessly constructed record in terms of lyrical content. Yes, it has a few tracks that are on the repetitive side both vocal and instrumental wise, but this does not make them unlistenable. If anything, they are more likely to be memorable because they are easy to sing along to. They’re like the songs you don’t want to get stuck in your head, but you end up singing them in the shower anyway.

When it comes to standout tracks, “Up the Punx” has to be one of the tracks that echo the band’s past sound most. With instrumentals and lyrics that sound like it blasted off Say Anything’s Early Rarities; it shows that the band has been influenced by who they toured with in 2016. Let’s just hope that Johnson writes a song with Max Bemis of Say Anything in the future. The two have wonderfully distinct and raucous voices along with remarkable writing styles.

“Million Dollars to Kill Me” manages to take those same old heartfelt lyrics that any fan of Joyce Manor is used to hearing. This can be heard on over half the album. The chorus alone is a keeper: “’Cause she’s the only one who can take you to a pawn shop / And sell you for twice what you’re worth / Nobody tells you it hurts to be loved.” 

Sadly, “Million Dollars to Kill Me,” along with “Fighting Kangaroo” and “Think I’m Still in Love with You” are a bit repetitive. This is an issue throughout the album. Are these songs bad, though? No. They are just not as noteworthy as other songs on the album such as the incredibly crisp and emotional track, “Big Lie.”

Another downfall of this album is the toning down of Johnson’s vocals. “Silly Games” feels like a slow dance song, and lyrically, it is a bit dull. This same issue takes place on “Gone Tomorrow.” The album could honestly do without these songs, but the band has a right to experiment. 

On the plus side, the closer, “Wildflowers” manages to pull off a new sound that Joyce Manor hasn’t had too much experience with in the past. With mostly acoustic string work, it takes a toned-down Johnson, and it flows nicely. This can be heard on “I’m Not the One” as well, which manages to keep those same old cathartic vocals. Both are relaxing, and according to remarks provided by Johnson, “Wildflowers” is his favorite song on the record. 

Experimentation and embracing modern times can definitely be heard on this record. “Friends We Met Online” takes the band’s older pop punk-leaning sound; however, it takes on a modern matter while having a nostalgic Blink-182 like sound. Honestly, it’s great; it’s almost like a paradox, but it works like most of the album.

All tracks considered, Million Dollars to Kill Me is a relatable album if you’re an aging music fan and/or musician. It has a nostalgic sound while still embracing the changes that come with maturing. Johnson strikes a delicate balance on most of the album’s tracks. Yes, it falls flat at points. Still, nobody’s perfect.

Favorite Tracks: “Big Lie,” “Million Dollars to Kill Me,” and “Up the Punx”

Rating: B+

Freelance Writer and Photographer