by Ian O'Shea
*Out of 5
Joyce Manor, a band who has been gaining significant traction in the punk and emo genre, has returned with an emotional new album that demonstrates a maturation of the band’s sound in the last few years. Following the release of Never Hungover Again in 2014, which softened the abrasive performances of previous albums, Cody further pushes a more mellow, pop oriented approach to punk music.
The first single and introduction to the album, “Fake-ID” is a lyrically ridiculous but simultaneously entertaining track which initially prepared me for an exciting record. Lead singer, Barry Johnson, seemingly wrote this song with no particular purpose, at one point mentioning Kanye West but ending with an excerpt about his friend dying. It exemplifies the theme of confusion which persists through all of Cody, making the album somewhat relatable to the young adult audience. Backed by an exceptionally catchy guitar tune, the song serves as a highlight of Joyce Manor’s newly acquired pop-punk sound.
That being said, a lot of the album has a more mellow vibe following the downtrodden “Do You Really Want to Not Get Better?”, which is reminiscent of the band’s earlier song “Drainage”. Both serve as sadder songs with foggier sounds than the rest of their respective albums, featuring acoustic guitars and voice effects to better bring out the feelings on the track. It is a high contrast to a song like “Fake-ID” and shows Barry Johnson’s range of emotions.
Where this album shines the most is when the band combines exciting instrumentation with Barry’s melodic and almost longing vocals. The songs that stand out among the rest are “Angel in the Snow” and “Make Me Dumb” with their bittersweet sound. The former experiments with a brass section behind driving guitars in the chorus to add more dimension to the music. The latter (my personal favorite) starts very intense, but hits its peak during the dreamy chorus creating a pleasant sound that will have any listener feeling calm as it fades out towards the end of the track.
Despite the record’s overall catchiness and some stand-out songs, it leaves some uniqueness to be desired. Many of the tracks follow a standard pop-punk formula that doesn’t differ greatly from what other bands have produced in the past. “Eighteen” is a particularly cliché song inspired by a high-school mentality that one could imagine being made by Weezer. The lyrics are relatively uninspiring on other tracks on the album and the loss of Johnson’s screaming vocals is slightly disappointing as it separated Joyce Manor from a more cookie-cutter sound.
All of this taken into consideration, there’s nothing particularly bad about Cody. It comes through with a cohesive sound and a handful of stand-out songs that are really enjoyable. All of the tracks demonstrate Joyce Manor’s ability to change as a band, even if it’s towards a more streamlined pop-punk sound. Any fan of the genre should definitely give this a listen, Joyce Manor is proving to be one of the most important rising bands in recent years, putting out quality projects consistently since 2011. 4/5.