Joyce Manor gets slick, but stays sentimental on Million Dollars to Kill Me | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Joyce Manor gets slick, but stays sentimental on Million Dollars to Kill Me 

click to enlarge Joyce Manor

Joyce Manor

Courtesy Epitaph Records

On its fifth LP, Million Dollars to Kill Me (Epitaph), indie and emo quartet Joyce Manor exhibits less rawness, more melody, and heightened production. And though it’s the band’s catchiest record to date, it didn’t start as a Joyce Manor album but rather as a collaboration between front man Barry Johnson and Impossibles guitarist and vocalist Rory Phillips. Million Dollars eventually transformed into a proper Joyce Manor project, recorded and produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio, with additional recording by Bad Religion guitarist and Epitaph label head Brett Gurewitz. With those hardcore-punk legends behind the boards, one might not expect an album that skews more toward power pop than jagged emo shout-alongs, but that’s exactly the case here. Phillips has cowriting credits on four tracks, including the standout “Silly Games,” which sounds like an indie-rock take on a Roy Orbison song. Vocal harmonies are more pronounced throughout the album than on previous records, and on lead vocals, Johnson displays little of the trademark vocal intensity present on older Joyce Manor hits such as 2011’s “Constant Headache” and 2014’s “Falling in Love Again”—even drawing shades of Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin on “Think I’m Still in Love with You.” The band adds new instrumental accents as well, including E-bow on acoustic ballad “I’m Not the One” and glockenspiel on “Silly Games.” Though Million Dollars to Kill Me basks in its softer side, it’s still a rock album, and its lean running time (ten tracks in 22 minutes) keeps it efficient in this era of short attention span. Expect a tight, emotionally resonant set this Saturday at the Vic.   v

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