Copeland: Revisited| Posted November 21, 2014
The indie pop rock stylings of Copeland were a staple in the libraries of alternative music fans a decade ago. Albums like Beneath Medicine Tree, In Motion and Dressed Up and In Line, although exhibiting a softer sound, were favorites in the post-emo rock arena. Frontman Aaron Marsh became even better known through collaborations with other bands from that scene, including mid-2000s heavyweights Underoath and Anberlin.
After fittingly joining forces with Tooth & Nail to release 2008's You Are My Sunshine, Copeland made the surprising announcement in late 2009 that they were affably parting ways. At the time, the statement the band released stated clearly that, although viewing future tours as out of the question, "we are not ruling out the possibility of recording one more album sometime in the future." And with November 2014, the time for that one more album has finally come.
Ixora (the title comes from a specific genus of tropical plants) is the result of a reunion of members Aaron Marsh, Bryan Laurenson, Stephen Laurenson and Jonathan Bucklew. From tender opening track "Have I Always Loved You" to bittersweet album closer "In Her Arms You Will Never Starve," it's apparent that this is the most laid back, sonically stripped down Copeland project yet. The album feels a little like being invited to sit in on a chill late night jam session with Copeland, tuning in to their introspective musical wanderings.
The album is very heavily piano driven, which has always been the case for Copeland (Aaron Marsh's use of the instrument pairs well with his quavering, mellow voice), but in this restrained musical context it shines even more than usual. Piano is employed simply yet effectively to create a sense of steadiness and repetition in "Ordinary," while the chords in "Disjointed" are as insistent as the currents that shape the lyrical flow.
A few tracks break from the status quo of drifting vocals and ethereal keys. "World Turn" utilizes the steady rush of rain in the background and melancholy acoustic guitar as it offers the haunting lyric "you felt the world turn its back on you" in Aaron Marsh's signature falsetto. This is one of the album's strong moments, despite a horn interlude that seems somewhat out of place.
"Chiromancer" is the only track with a notable bass line (the absence elsewhere is perhaps not surprising given that bass isn't the native instrument for any of the members who reunited here). The steady tension created by the bass underscores guest vocals from Steff Koeppen, whose voice perfectly complements the darker, brooding tone built here.
Thematically, although some of the songs deal simply with the ache of being human (something Copeland has always addressed well), another consistent theme is the concept of monogamy. Previously mentioned "Have I Always Loved You" and "Ordinary" both explore the rhythm of constancy and commitment, lending a particularly mature attitude to the album. The lyrics here are also beautifully poetic, such as the exquisite moment in "I Can Make You Feel Young Again" singing gently "a billion stars and here we are, the same bit of dirt holding our weight."
Although some longtime fans might miss the slight edge offered at times by subtle, raw electric guitar riffs in previous Copeland projects, the sound of Ixora seems well suited to these quieter days of the band's twilight. The more relaxed, restrained sound still exhibits some of the indie style elements fans came to love, including the signature moodiness, but it is tempered here by graceful restraint and a mature contentment previously heard less frequently in their lyrics. Beyond offering closure to old Copeland fans, this album has the potential to draw in new ones who may have missed out six years ago. Ixora should be high on the listening priority list for any indie rock enthusiast.
Song to Download Now:
"Have I Always Loved You" (Get it on iTunes here.)