If absence makes the heart grow fonder, fans of Lakeland, Florida, indie rock act Copeland should be quite affectionate by now. The band bid us all farewell in 2010 after the release of You Are My Sunshine, seeming content to fade into our collective memory. Although goodbyes are never easy, the band left four classic records in their wake, which is more than many of the scene’s departed can claim.
Then came this April’s shocking announcement – Copeland was returning, and not just for a trendy reunion tour. The band was hitting the studio to craft their fifth full length album, produced by lead singer Aaron Marsh. Much rejoicing commenced.
One lingering question persisted, though: What if the album wasn’t very good? It’s not often that fans get this sort of second chance from their favorite band. Could Copeland tarnish their legacy by releasing something sub-par? Was it possible for expectations to be too high?
Rest assured – Copeland’s fifth album, Ixora, is everything you want a Copeland album to be. And while it’s not their greatest album, it’s a very welcome addition to the band’s catalogue.
For Ixora, the whole band is back together and they never stray too far from the beaten path. The album feels like an extension of both You Are My Sunshine and Eat, Sleep, Repeat – the band’s final two albums. Marsh’s production is ever present, drawing on tricks learned during previous sessions in which he manned the boards, such as those with Anchor & Braille.
Ixora is delicate and often whimsical. Opening track “Have I Always Loved You?” feels like so many of the lullaby-ish Copeland numbers, backed by a peaceful acoustic guitar. “Disjointed” slightly picks up the pace, driven by its tinkling keyboards and strings. The song’s climax appears just before the final chorus as the keys drop out and Marsh’s falsetto takes the reigns, “And now I feel the current / Pull me up, take me under / Rush over again”.
So much of Copeland’s appeal has always been wrapped up in the otherworldly vocals of Marsh, who has a knack for capturing a moment. His graceful flair comes in small doses on this record, as he regularly practices restraint. In truth, it makes those flashes of brilliance even more special. Take “Erase”, a soft track that floats along for nearly two and a half minutes before the drums kick in and Marsh takes the song over the top with his repeated refrain of, “You won’t erase me”.
The band’s use of electronics, which became a staple on their later releases, is in full effect on songs like “Lavender” and the smooth and jazzy “Like a Lie”. Marsh shares vocal duties with Steff Koeppen on the extremely familiar sounding “Chiromancer”, which may be the biggest treat for fans of the band’s early work.
“Ordinary” is signature Copeland, as well, with it’s simple piano line and Marsh’s ability to turn the most mundane of lyrics into something special. He opens the song with, “Today was fine / I woke up late like I always do / Made work just in the nick of time / And thought of you”. Over the years, Marsh has been known for describing the deep truths of love and romance by focusing on the ordinary – those things we take for granted or overlook. No more clearer is that presentation than here.
The band took no real chances on Ixora, instead adding the quirks and bits that made each of their past works unique and combining them into something fitting for the band’s return. Ixora isn’t as urgent as In Motion or as dreamy as Eat, Sleep, Repeat. It’s not a departure, but it isn’t a carbon copy of any single album, either. Instead, it’s something uniquely Copeland.
Most fans will never get the satisfaction of seeing their favorite band rise from the ashes with brand new material. By and large, it’s likely better this way. With such a return comes great expectations and high stakes that could result in a dent to any given band’s legacy. With Ixora, Copeland has avoided such a misstep and has delivered another worthy album. To call it luck would be foolish. Heart seems much more appropriate.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.
Great review! After many listens through, I regard this as either their best album or tied for best. It’s literally chill-inducing for me. 5/5, easily. Also, “You Are My Sunshine” came out in 2008, not 2010 🙂