In the closing week of May 2020, Joyce Manor, an emo/punk outfit from Torrance, Calif., surprised listeners with a raw and, for the most part, never before heard, full-length release of recordings from the band’s early years titled Songs From Northern Torrance. The record contains only recordings from Joyce Manor’s first two years of existence, 2008-2010, and all but one song had never been formally released before.
In the years following mainstream success, Joyce Manor began to be known for their wailing emo vocals and gritty, yet still polished, rhythmic guitar lines. Songs From Northern Torrance takes the band in a different direction or, rather, a reversion back to where they started.
In true punk fashion, the 10-track record spans not even 15 minutes, with the longest track, “Leather Jacket,” only lasting a little over two minutes. The short listening time led Songs From Northern Torrance to be a relatively easy record to listen to, yet still offers a deeper complexity upon further investigation.
Songs From Northern Torrance starts with “House Warning Party,” which had been released two days before the full record was dropped. This track starts the album off well and introduces most of the diverse elements that are seen later throughout the record. It sets the overall acoustic tone of the album but still includes some electric guitar, almost as a teaser for some of the later songs. “House Warning Party” also introduces the theme of painful love in a way that did not shy away from emotions while still allowing room for later tracks to divulge into even darker territory.
The next few tracks, “Fuck Koalacaust” and “DFHP,” play off the same rhythm and pace of “House Warning Party,” characterized by mainly acoustic guitar and quickly spat out vocals. “Danke Schoen” is the first change of pace for this record, yet is the peak of the strong melodic nature of Songs From Northern Torrance. “Danke Schoen” is driven by its bassline and constant beat, which come together to form a strong melody, leading the way for the rest of the record.
The next and final change of pace is the sixth track: “Constant Nothing.” It still maintains the raw sound found in this release but strays further towards punk than the other tracks on Songs From Northern Torrance.
The closing three songs have the most similar sounding songs to what Joyce Manor has become known for. “Chumped” especially exhibits a sound found in most of Joyce Manor’s popularized hits. It has a pounding punk-like rhythm guitar with a fair amount of distortion and a clashing drum set found so often in punk music. Joyce Manor juxtaposes the heavily punk-influenced instrumentals of their closing songs with their classic wailing vocals.
Songs From Northern Torrance serves as a timeline for Joyce Manor’s music career thus far. It shows where they started, how far they have come and their overall versatility as a band. As eclectic as the album may seem, is a tapestry of Joyce Manor, proving them to be a band that does not confine itself to one sound or genre.