It’s winter here, still, and it probably will be for at least another month and a half, but we had a glimpse of spring last week (temperatures in the sixties, snow mounds melted down to almost nothing, grass visible for the first time since December), and since then all I’ve wanted to listen to is pop punk.
Awhile ago Drew and I were talking about being “too old” for certain types of music and how, sometimes, if you don’t click into something at the right age, you’ll never respond to it in a meaningful way. (I think that we were talking about The Promise Ring — I had bought a used CD copy of Nothing Feels Good and literally couldn’t process why Drew didn’t like it and he said something about how if he didn’t like it as a teenager, there was no way he could come to it later in life. ANYWAY.) There are definitely a handful of things that I listen to that I know I discovered at the exact right time and probably couldn’t come to later in life and there are an even greater number of things that I listen to that I respond to in a way that’s deeply informed by the age at which I first heard them, but what I am getting at here is that I am probably never going to be old for pop punk and it’s just too bad, so sad for anyone who expects me to.
The cover of the Joyce Manor album is what caught my attention. It for real just looks like something I would like: sweet, but a little scruffy, the scrap and whimsy and mystery of youth, kids in coats with bad haircuts — it is the story of my life. I saw it posted a handful of times by a few people that I follow on tumblr, but was too deep into this weird thing where all I wanted to listen to was Asobi Seksu to really pay attention. Anyway, I finally got around listening to it earlier this week and I’m so glad that I did.
Records like this make me wish for time travel, make me wish it was possible to become 15 again, because I can imagine moments in my life where this music would have belonged in real and specific and meaningful ways. I think that as a teen, I would have responded to songs like “Famous Friend” (with its closing call of, “I am strong,”) in an entirely different way than I am now (which is to say that now, it makes me feel a little sad and when I was a teenager it probably would have at least helped me to feel a shred of empowerment.) At the same time, I think that there are moments on this album that belong to someone older and wiser — like “Leather Jacket” (“I miss the way we talked before you went away to school”), which positions itself on the brim of adulthood, in that liminal post-high school pre-something else space where your life is, more or less, broken into pieces and redistributed (sometimes with very little equity.) I guess what I’m getting at here is that this album has the sonic signatures of something I would have loved as an adolescent, but also has enough of a widened emotional perspective that it’s able to engage me as a listener on more than one level.
In Cultural Studies and the Study of Popular Culture, John Storey writes about the different qualities that music can have and how listeners respond to/read these qualities. One of the qualities that Storey identifies in his critique is jouissance — the moments in songs that are “moments of release, beyond meaning.” I feel like I, as a listener, sense jouissance the most in short, simple, fast songs, in short albums that encapsulates specific emotional experiences (that’s not to say that I don’t find jouissance elsewhere — in fact, when I had to dig into the archives of my undergrad work to find my stuff on Storey, I found a pretty lengthy paper on Deerhoof’s “Blue Cash” and jouissance.) I feel like right now I’m occupying a number of liminal spaces — it’s between winter and spring here, I’m nearing the end of my current work commitment and am beginning the search for a new job, in the next few months I’ll be moving out of the house I’m currently living in — and I feel like this album really speaks to that liminality.
Joyce Manor is touring the US this summer. You can see tour dates on their blog. You can stream some of their songs on their MySpace, they also have a Bandcamp where you can stream and download their demo. You can get Joyce Manor’s album on vinyl ($12) or CD ($7) direct from 6131, they also have some package deals where you can get the album with a t-shirt (vinyl and a tee is $20, CD and a tee is $14.) As if this isn’t already too much information, Joyce Manor also has a Bigcartel shop where you can get their new album on CD ($5), as well as a physical copy of their demo and their split with Summer Vacation.