Whenever an artist is in the position of following up a breakthrough album, it’s interesting to see the direction they go next. For Southern California-based Joyce Manor, following up their 2014 release, Never Hungover Again, is a big proposition considering the universal and instant acclaim that album garnered. With their album, Cody, Joyce Manor has taken the concept of the follow-up to not only mean progression musically, but also what comes next thematically.

For better and worse, Cody is definitively not a rehash of Never Hungover Again. In the best sense, Cody is an album that goes boldly in new directions and lives outside of the shadow that an album as acclaimed as Never Hungover Again has the power to cast. However, this also means an absence of many things that made that album such a compelling and alluring 19 minutes of music.

Cody is Joyce Manor’s fourth studio album in just five years, following their self-titled debut, 2012’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, and their 2014 instant classic Never Hungover Again. Four albums in five years is incredibly prolific and impressive output for a band. The other side of the coin, when it comes to Joyce Manor, is that these previous three albums combined still clock in under an hour. The brevity of Joyce Manor’s songs does not detract from their greatness; it has always been an incredibly alluring aspect of their music. Cody is far from a lengthy record in the grand scheme of things. However, for Joyce Manor its 25-minute runtime is their longest release to date, and the increase is notable. Four songs on Cody stick out specifically because of their length. ‘Last You Heard Of Me’, ‘Make Me Dumb’, ‘Over Before It Began’, and ‘Stairs’ all clock in longer than any tracks from Never Hungover Again. In fact, ‘Stairs’ is Joyce Manor’s longest song released to date, and their first to ever pass the 4-minute mark.

The result of these songs’ longer runtimes definitely leaves Cody considerably less accessible, at least initially, than Joyce Manor’s previous work. What has always been so magnetic about Joyce Manor’s brevity is how quickly yet wonderfully they managed to tell complete stories. They were like anecdotes from parties you hardly remember, but know you had a great time. The songs on Cody are more like memories of being sad at a party and realising after five beers that drinking is only making the sadness grow. With each repeat listen, this layer of melancholy throughout Cody makes it feel like the logical follow up to Never Hungover Again.

While Never Hungover Again is a joyful celebration of youthful nights and the excesses that fill them, Cody is told from a very shifted perspective. It’s that of an older person that seems to be looking back on younger days without the same remorseless joy. Instead, they now have perspective enough to understand that those nights do not last forever. In the album’s opener, ‘Fake ID’, front man Barry Johnson goes as far as showing a moment when such a revelation occurs. In the song, he describes a one-night stand that starts exciting for the song’s narrator, but devolves as he becomes aware of shallowness in the situation he had never noticed before. By the end of the song he is reminiscing about a dead friend he misses.

If this theme of aging, and the change in viewpoint it brings, is not clear after the first song, the one following it, ‘Eighteen’, really drives it home. In it, Johnson sings about the ups and downs of life when you’re the song’s titular age before concluding with the line “I feel so old today.” Reminiscing suddenly isn’t as fun as it used to be because the contrast between then and now is much more stark.

This is likely why I was reluctant to enjoy Cody after my first listen. It’s not fun to acknowledge feeling old and like you’re losing the ability to sympathize with your younger self. Therefore, it is only fitting that Cody isn’t immediately accessible. We all want to live in our younger, more joyful times, and accepting the realities of growing older and aging out of this period are painful - but it’s a natural and necessary transition. On Cody, Joyce Manor captures this change—when it’s no longer about growing up, it’s about growing older—in a very real way. At times, it’s painful, and others, it’s cathartic. The fun, party-filled days of Never Hungover Again may be over, but by the end of Cody, Joyce Manor reminds us that it’s ok to get older.