Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again LP
Joyce Manor's first album for Epitaph is also their first album to be recorded in a nice studio and it's mixed by indie rock lifer Tony Hoffer, who has worked for Belle and Sebastian and Beck, to name two big artists. Those are the facts that might scare away fans of the California emo revivalists, since they don't really fit in with the decidedly lo-fi, D.I.Y. approach the group took on its first two albums (2010's Joyce Manor and 2012's Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired). Fear not, cautious fan base, because Never Hungover Again isn't an industry-fueled sellout or any kind of dilution of their hearts-in-throats-and-on-sleeves pop-punk at all. It's the same kind of short (20 minutes), intense, and bleedingly emotional album they had made before, only more focused and more powerful now. Most noticeably, the lo-fi interludes that sapped a little of Of All Things' impact are gone and all the songs here have soaring choruses and a hard-charging energy that is breathless at times. The guitars of Chase Knobbe and Barry Johnson crunch and spiral with considerably more impact this time out, Johnson's pleading vocals are out front more, Kurt Walcher's drums have more punch, and Matt Ebert's bass sound and playing would make Matt Sharp proud. Have to mention him because Weezer is a touchstone, as are Jawbreaker. While it's true that Joyce Manor might not exist without either of those bands, and a bunch of other '90s emo-rockers as well, they bring so much passion to their music and songs that they make the sound theirs completely. The slow-burning feels of "Schley," the fire-starting ferocity of "Heart Tattoo," the jangling almost-Smiths of very pretty album closer "Heated Swimming Pool," the painful earnestness of "Christmas Card" -- these songs all sound familiar, but they also sound hyper-charged, full of fresh-feeling energy, unadorned raw emotion, and honest-as-a-diary lyrics that will connect with anyone who's ever had a heart broken. Joyce Manor make 20 minutes feel way more epic than the running time might promise, and Never Hungover Again ends up as the kind of record that feels like an instant classic. Play it next to Pinkerton, Bleed American, or Bivouac and see if there's a dip in quality. Seriously doubt you'll hear any.