Joyce Manor and the Virtue of Brevity in Music

With streaming now counting more heavily towards the Billboard charts, artists of even a semi-popular status have tried to game the charts with longer records consisting of an almost overwhelming number of songs. Admittedly, there have been several records that I can say have managed to use their time and space to some efficiency, be it Kendrick Lamar’s brilliant jazz-rap opus To Pimp a Butterfly or Titus Andronicus’ off the rails punk rock opera The Most Lamentable Tragedy. However, there have been plenty of prominent disasters such as Drake’s blatant cash-in attempt with Views just last year. As always when these kinds of things come up, the question comes to hand about how long an album really needs to be in order to be be great, and, always, some bands prove that there’s no real answer.

Joyce Manor’s four full albums  average around just over eighteen and a half minutes per album. Their most recent, Cody, runs longer than any of their others at around twenty-four. Short songs certainly aren’t an anomaly in the realm of punk rock, even being celebrated with the 1999 compilation Short Music for Short People which brought together bands from across the genre’s spectrum. Joyce Manor fully embraces this brevity in their discography by cramming in as much as they can into their records in as little space as possible. I asked a few friends who were more avidly enthusiastic on the band to give testimonies about how they use this to great effects, and these were some of their responses:

Ivan: “The album length definitely contributes to the quality, there are some bands now that unnecessarily stretch it out just for the sake of it. The best part of Joyce Manor is being able to go through their whole discography in a little over an hour.”

Trent: “Punk is a genre that’s best delivered in a concise and straightforward manner, which JM manage to do perfectly. The poignancy allows them to easily get across the point of each individual track and then go down a different avenue in the next track for some new idea. Some of their weakest work happens in their longer songs like “Stairs.” Their most ‘prolonged’ tracks lose a lot of the charm that the quick hook usually sells me.”

As these accounts articulate, the band uses its simplistic styles to push songwriting with better emphasis in the hooks, which are absolutely wonderful, especially on my favorite record of theirs, Never Hungover Again. Overall, their work shows there’s plenty of value to be found in different methodologies of songwriting, and bands shouldn’t have to nitpick when a song doesn’t hit some arbitrarily average time.

Joyce Manor will be playing a joint headlining show with Wavves this Saturday, November 4th at the Music Farm, with support from Culture Abuse.

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