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.
“For most people who create art I would assume there is some kind of deep unanswerable hole in your soul as to why you’re making it…” So says Stef Chura ahead of the release of Midnight, her gritty, vehement new album, recorded and produced by Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest – and her first new collection of songs for Saddle Creek, out June 7th. Illuminating that search for answers with a fevered sense of exploration, Midnight is a bold leap forward from Messes, Stef’s contagious debut album, with every aspect of her new work finding bold ways to express itself as it rips through twelve restless and relentless new tracks. She also shares the first single, “Method Man,” a boisterous three-minutes that melds jagged, skewed guitars with a distinctive voice that has a new-found sense of confidence while touching on a vulnerable moment in Stef’s life.
Strange Ranger (fka Sioux Falls) is an Indie-Rock/Post-Punk band from Montana, now based out of Portland, Oregon. The band was formed by the duo of Isaac Eiger and Fred Nixon, who have been playing music together since 2009 when the pair were still in high school. A friendship solidified by their mutual love of early Modest Mouse, the two would eventually make the move to Portland in search of more fertile musical soil. The band would struggle to solidify over the next few years but those hardships would lead to their breakthrough debut full-length, the sprawling Rot Forever under the name Sioux Falls, released in February of 2016. From there it has been a whirlwind of notoriety for the band. Rot Forever was named one of Consequence of Sound’s ‘Top 50 Albums of 2016.’ Later in 2016 the band would change their name to Strange Ranger and release a new EP, Sunbeams Through Your Head, which would make Stereogum’s list of “Great EPs from 2016.” Those two releases would also lead Stereogum to name Strange Ranger one of “2016’s Best New Bands.” Along with that name change, the Sunbeams Through Your Head EP would be a prelude of the direction to come for the band with their next release.