By Tanner Bidish, Contributor
Key Tracks: “Angel in the Snow,” “Do You Really Want to Not Get Better?,” “Reversing Machine”
The Long Beach natives of Joyce Manor have been putting out intense and sporadic jams about young-adult angst since 2011. A self-titled debut and two subsequent releases (one with their current label Epitaph) have established Joyce Manor in the punk realm, as well as built them an increasingly growing fan base. The band is known best for catchy and energized tracks that hit hard and burn out quick (most songs in their repertoire range from 1:30–2:10). The band’s latest release, Cody, is the exception.
On their new record, it feels like the band has taken a deep breath and calmed down a bit. Most tracks here feature a healthy mid-tempo and balanced arrangements. Rob Schnapf, who has worked with Elliott Smith and Guided By Voices, lends himself as producer, and Nate Ruess of fun. sings back-up with Barry Johnson in what feels like feels like musical irony. Cody is still loaded with youthful pondering and anxieties, but they’re articulated with more polish than before. Cody is also the most produced and the most pop Joyce Manor has ever been, but it’s not all bad. The band’s members are all nearing thirty and the youthful bursts that coat their past releases aren’t their prerogative anymore.
“Fake I.D.” kicks things off with a guitar line reminiscent of a ’90s anime intro. The track elaborates on a scene from a party and a conversation with a girl about Kanye West. “I think he’s better than John Steinbeck. I think he’s better than Phil Hartman”. With his metaphorical comparisons, Johnson isn’t bashing Kanye, rather the way people view him and celebrities in general. “Angel in the Snow” documents the frustrating numbness sometimes felt in young life. The hook at the end of chorus hits hard, “How come nothing amazes me? I don’t know.” The third verse ends with “You gotta stay this way forever, ‘till it makes you want to die. You needed something out of nothing,” and cuts with the instrumentation for a pointedly incomplete feeling.
The shortest song on the record, “Do You Really Want to Not Get Better?”, is an unexpected acoustic ballad about a loved one struggling through addiction. The track stands out as personal, sincere, and vulnerable. The second half of the album takes a dip, with “Make Me Dumb” and “Over Before it Began” fumbling momentum. “Reversing Machine” brings it back with a simple structure, and a reflection of Joyce Manor on former albums. “Stairs” is the longest Joyce Manor song to date. It was written by Johnson when he nineteen and tells a story of unhealthy co-dependence at an embarrassingly adult age.
Cody doesn’t sound how Joyce Manor has always sounded, but it doesn’t stray too far away either. There’s a nice polish on the album, and while tracks lose sincerity under the weight of production most remain true. There are catchy punk jams to be heard here as Joyce Manor sets a trajectory for a more mature future.