Let’s start the story of Joyce Manor’s Million Dollars To Kill Me at the end of Million Dollars To Kill Me—at the last not-even two minutes of “Wildflowers,” a song about light and beauty and wonder that ends the record like a sunrise after a long exhausting night. It’s not a sing-along single or a bleaked-out slow-burner. It’s brief, understated, and simple but sophisticated as it says what it needs to say in seven sharp lines. And it ends the album with a question instead of an answer, because on an album like this, questions are more honest. If 2016’s Cody was about growing up, then Kill Me is about what happens next—the reckonings with love, money, doubt and confusion, and the hope that persists despite it all. That’s where “Wildflowers” comes in. Says Barry Johnson, band co-founder/guitarist/vocalist: “‘Wildflowers’ is my favorite song on the record—maybe my favorite song I’ve ever written. It’s about how something can be so beautiful it breaks your heart.”
That’s Million Dollars To Kill Me: an album that glides across that tension between two perfectly opposite feelings. That’s even how the guitars fit together. It’s in the way co-founding guitarist Chase Knobbe can somehow make a song sound sadder and tougher at the same time, says Johnson, or the way Johnson mixes minor and major chords to invoke a precise kind of overpowering melancholy. (“I like when songs have a feeling of yearning,” says Johnson. “It just feels good to me. Makes you wanna cry.”) It’s even in the way the album was made because it didn’t start as a Joyce Manor album at all.