Joyce Manor has released a surprise collection that should delight old and new fans alike. Songs From Northern Torrance features ten songs from their early days, encompassing their punk roots and telling the story of the band origins in two carefully curated halves. These range from songs that are occasionally played during their live shows to obscure and unreleased gems. Most of the tracks here are slightly above or below the one minute mark, hitting you like a barrage of suckerpunches. Each hook-filled cut pounces at you relentlessly before you could even react to the previous blow.
The first half of the collection is composed of lo-fi, DIY tracks that hearkens back to the band’s beginnings as a two piece acoustic. What these songs lack in fancy production, they make up for in their character. “House Warning Party” sounds like a classic porch banger, a song you play at a house party with the neighboring kids or at the skatepark. “DFHP” and “Danke Schoen” are filled with infectious and charming melodies, with the latter including a conversation between both band members as they prepare to record. Making you feel like you’re right there with them hanging out as they play.
The second half transitions almost jarringly into full-on electric. This marks the band’s beginnings into a four-piece. These tracks have a more defined production, but the character and drive for catchy songwriting is still there, elevating the band’s sound as they dip into other avenues of hardcore and punk. “Constant Nothing” has throat-wrenching vocals and rumbling drums that perfectly accompanies the lyrics of the song: “It just wears me out / Oh it just wears me out.” “Five Beer Plan” starts out as a stripped down rant that sounds like a drunken tirade, but then it escalates into a hardcore riot with heavy rock riffs and a whirlwind of noise. The album ends with “Leather Jacket”, the longest track at two minutes and seventeen seconds. A more melodic and emotive take than the rest of the tracks, a far cry from the scrappy first track.
What I like about this album is the fact that not only is it a great treat for die-hard fans who’ve been following Joyce Manor from the start. It also tells a story of a band trying to find their voice and style. From their beginnings playing at house parties, to slowly gaining confidence in their sound and musical influences, you hear all of it here. If you’ve never heard of them before, this is a good entry point. Either way, it’s a fantastic way to spend all of fifteen minutes.