On their latest album 40 oz. to Fresno, written during the pandemic, pop-punk lifers Joyce Manor have proven themselves masters of the under-two-minute nugget. With only two songs on the album going above that length, the songs here are short and often sugary sweet, but not without eclectic segments that keep the songwriting captivating.
The riff at the heart of opener “Gotta Let It Go” could almost be described as country-esque, but when surrounded by the chugging power chords, head-smashing drums and gang vocal chorus, it still resounds as a strutting punk song. This brand of heavier pop-punk is dabbed throughout 40 oz, coming in at lightning speed on the bouncy “NBTSA”, and churning on the distortion storm “Secret Sisters”.
The band is clearly having some fun here, branching out into post-punk on the stuttering, grooving “You’re Not Famous Anymore”, fuzzy new wave on “Souvenir”, and sunny power pop on the crisp “Reason to Believe” and the sing-songy “Did You Ever Know”. There’s also some quirk to the lyrics here (“Stray cat fast asleep, same place he was last week”), while the previous song tries to find the positive in the bleak (“We’re on a burning planet but upon it is magic”).
At their strongest, Joyce Manor wraps universal pains around memorable hooks, like on the single “Don’t Try”, with vocalist Barry Johnson excavating his sense of disconnection over a searing “Sometimes I feel so far away. I missed you so much today.” The band has said on Twitter that this is one of the best songs they’ve ever written, and they very well may be correct.
The album is out on June 10th on Epitaph Records, and you can listen to the first two singles here: