Permanent Pleasure – Joywave Album Review

Written by on May 17, 2024

Review by Deepak Sathish –

He’s back! Or, rather, they’re back. Joywave, the Rochester indie rock trio consisting of frontman/producer Daniel Armbruster, guitarist Joseph Morinelli, and drummer Paul Brenner, have returned with their fifth studio album, Permanent Pleasure. This record follows up their fourth album, Cleanse, and their first live album, Live, both released two years ago in 2022. 

On this album, described by Armbruster as the band’s “‘whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it’” album, the record sees the band doing a complete 180 from Cleanse. Gone is much the strict and unified sonic language and the heavy emphasis on synths and keyboards. Permanent Pleasures leans on guitars and revels in their unpredictability.

The album opens with “Graffiti Planet,” which begins with a clip of former Rochester mayor Tom Ryan speaking over a ragtime piano. However, it is quickly interrupted by a punchy, futuristic synth. The track paints a sonic soundscape of a distant, futuristic sci-fi planet, with punchy drum patterns and dramatic synths, with a wailing guitar occasionally interrupting. This song serves as a perfect introduction to the album, bridging the gap between the more experimental synth-driven songs, and the more straightforward rock cuts. 

Following are the two singles released in advance of the album, “Scared” and “Brain Damage.” “Scared” is a guitar-driven indie rock track, in which Armbruster details his more insecure experiences with love and intimacy. In an age of toxic masculinity, Armbruster succeeds in offering a softer, most emotionally open contrast. 

Track three, “Brain Damage” opens with a vocoded voice sample that essentially begins to serve as part of the percussion of the track. The song continues as Armbruster sings dryly about coming to terms with the ending of the world. The instrumental builds in the pre-chorus, with Armbruster crooning about the ways the world is coming to an end, such as the rising sea levels and an asteroid. The chorus is sinister, with a mocking laugh being played over brooding strings and synths, with a repeating refrain of Armbruster asking a simple question: “Aren’t you glad to be alive?” 

The album then features two of the most unique and politically charged songs the band has ever done. “He’s Back!” is a disco-inflected satirization of conservatives’ fallacies in how they view Jesus Christ, and Christianity at large. The song features heavy funk influences as Armbruster sarcastically sings about Jesus complaining about the sick and poor weighing down the economy. The song is a standout on the album, as Joywave has never delved into anything like the funk-tinged grooves of this track before. 

“Sleepytime Fantasy,” first released as a B-side on an exclusive “Brain Damage” vinyl, is the most different song on this album and in the band’s discography. The track feels like a demented number from a musical about American imperialism. The smooth, string-laden instrumental features Armbruster singing about trying to go to sleep and ignore the horrors occurring outside, but it is interrupted by big booms, reminiscent of explosions. I’m going to let you figure out what that represents on your own.

Following the two idiosyncratic cuts, the record veers back into indie rock territory with “Swimming In The Glow” and “Hate To Be A Bother.” 

“Swimming In The Glow” sees Joywave reimagining themselves as an arena rock band. The standout song has big drums and wailing guitars and is begging to be blasted out an open window on a summer day blasting down the highway. 

“Hate To Be A Bother” sees Armbruster singing about the constant overwhelming feeling that comes with existing online in the 21st century, and wishing he could be left alone. 

Track eight, “787 Dreamliner,” is a sinister-sounding track that combines booming drums with evil guitars that dramatize what it is like to be afraid of flying. Armbruster’s lyrics showcase benign observations of what it is like on an airplane, interspersed with lines showing he is afraid for his life on the airplane, terrified and waiting for the trip to be over. 

“Splendor” is a smooth and mellow vignette of a song, where Armbruster sings about different events in his life that featured upscale items, culminating in a snapshot of one of his birthdays, in which he wished away everything. This echoes a sentiment expressed in “After Coffee” from Cleanse, where he also contemplates giving it all up. 

The album concludes with the aptly-titled “Here To Perform The Final Song From Their Album ‘Permanent Pleasure’, Please Welcome… Joywave.” As the title implies, the song takes place on a haunted late-night set, as Armbruster sings to the audience and the past versions of himself, over an instrumental of sparkly arpeggios, jerky drum loops, and heavenly synth layers. The song ends with a ragtime piano section, as someone sings about Rochester, and how it’s the only place that feels like home. This serves as a callback to the opening moments of the album, where a similar ragtime piano section begins the whole record.  

Permanent Pleasure serves as another stellar record by Joywave, further showing their willingness to experiment and change their sound. The band never makes the same record, and this is no exception. From the more standard indie rock fare such as “Swimming In The Glow” and “Scared,” to the more eccentric tracks like “He’s Back!” and “Brain Damage,” there is something for everyone on this album. 

Feeling fresh while keeping the band’s penchant for dealing with political themes and pushing the boundaries of genre, Permanent Pleasure is another indispensable addition to the discography of one of the most fresh and innovative bands working in indie rock today.

Joywave’s fifth studio album Permanent Pleasure is out and available everywhere now. You can keep up with the band via social media, including their Instagram @joywave, and stream them on Spotify.  

Joywave will embark on their “Permanent Pleasure World Tour” this September, making stops in New York, NY, Buffalo, NY Philadelphia, PA, and more! Check out more dates and ticket details on their website,

Photo courtesy of Hollywood Records.