Joyce Manor : 40 Oz. to Fresno

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The idea of making a sixth album, in the abstract, sounds daunting. How do you stay original, stay relevant, and continue to connect to your listeners? For Joyce Manor, however, there’s no problem picking up where they left off and moving forward with their sixth, 40 oz to Fresno. With its title coming from an autocorrected text about the Sublime album 40 oz to Freedom, there’s a sense of playful nostalgia, as if they’re juxtaposing the time gone by against a joy in still making music together, sounding freer than ever.

Nostalgia continues to creep in as the album opens with a cover of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s 1981 “Souvenir.” Joyce Manor’s rendition is louder and heavier, veering away from its synth pop roots and viewed through a crunchy, punk lens. It’s a welcoming start to the album, and fun to hear them make the song so rowdy.  

“NBTSA” finds vocalist Barry Johnson coming to grips with his mortality, and as he repeats, “I may never be the same again,” it’s hard not to feel the wave of panic that can easily sneak in when you stop to process. “You’re Not Famous Anymore” by comparison feels like a cousin to “NBTSA,” a cheeky way of delving into what happens when people forget about you. 

The album exists within Joyce Manor’s highly specific sound world—a cross between late ‘00s pop punk and a contemporary emo sound that threads through bands like Citizen, Turnover, Tigers Jaw and Joyce Manor on the same billing. “Don’t Try” pulls us right back into earlier hits like “The Jerk” and “Constant Headache,” with its heavy, relentless guitars and gutsy vocal harmonies, nearly coming to a shout by the end. Even on the album’s rougher, more mosh-pit-ready tracks like “Gotta Let It Go” there’s always a laid back tone, never going too heavy on the instrumentals and leaning into screaming only during a climactic bridge. At times, its biggest drawback is its songs’ conciseness, most coming in right around a minute and 30 seconds. Sure, nobody wants to overwrite, but it’s easy to want another couple of minutes of a track like “Dance With Me.”

In a press release for the album, Johnson added, “This album makes me think of our early tours, drinking a 40 in the van on a night drive blasting Guided By Voices and smoking cigarettes the whole way to Fresno.” There’s a recurring sense of camaraderie throughout the album, as its tracks carry a spirit of brotherhood, even when life wants to pull you apart. While they’ve done their share of growing up together, the latest from Joyce Manor brings to mind the scene in Stranger Things season 3 when Will just wants to play Dungeons & Dragons in his basement forever. If things go as planned, the band might just keep creating that special brand of kind of emotionally charged punk rock that we’ve all grown to love.

Label: Epitaph

Year: 2022

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