Love is weird, messy, complicated. I know I’m not saying anything incredibly new or profound – we’ve all experienced the whirlwind of falling in and out of love. And sometimes at such an intensity that it feels like you’re dreaming. Copeland’s sixth album, Blushing, explores that sensation thoroughly and almost immediately on the album’s startling opener, “Pope.” Vocalist Aaron Marsh pleads, “Will you be my love?/Until I can prove that this world is not real,” over a swirling cacophony of swirling strings, programming, and more. Suddenly everything drops – it’s just distant piano keys and a women’s hushed voice. Without warning, it’s over. The track is a brilliant juxtaposition between the beginning of a relationship (“Did you dream about anything last night?” is something said during the beginning or good times of a relationship because you want to know everything about your partner) and the end of a relationship (“Hey, hey, are you awake? You should probably get up and get going. I don’t want to be rushed”) – when the women’s voice appears it’s jarring because it’s so comforting, reminding you of that good place you were once at but ultimately it’s a devastating reminder that it’s over.
Blushing is an abstract yet pointed look at a relationship turned apathetic with the narrator stuck between the dream-like euphoria of love and the reality of everything falling apart. Early on, there are moments of feeling like a prisoner – the surrendering nature of the ethereal “Lay Here” (You were caught in my mind/I can almost still feel it”) and the Moon Shaped Pool-esque shimmer of “As Above, So Alone” (“And I know you love me/even when you can’t say it like you mean it”) bring these insecurities into the light, with Marsh delivering these lines in such a desperate tone, trying to hold onto these feelings that are fleeing.
The crushing one-two punch of “Skywriter” and “Colorless” is the painful realization of a love lost. The narrator grasps, “And what’s the use in loving you if it just makes me crazy?” as the passion wilts (“Now I can’t see you/Were we colorless anyway?/Now I can’t feel you”). Marsh’s writing throughout Blushing is arresting, perfectly encapsulating the heartache involved in loving someone. Throughout the rest of Blushing, there’s a sense of denial, as if the narrator knows it’s ending but refuses to wake up. The glitchy electro-pop of “On Your Worst Day” best illustrates that, as Marsh soothingly sings, “You never kiss me when we’re dancing/You just grab my shoulders trying to wake me up/I’m always stuck inside a moment” while pleading that he “just want to make you smile on your worst day.”
There are moments on Blushing that feel very AMSR – moments constructed and executed in a way so that you aren’t really listening as you are experiencing it with the entirety of your body, your senses. The jittery “Suddenly” projects like an out-of-body event, while the enchanting distortion of “Night Figures” places the listener in the middle of an aural thunderstorm.
Copeland has left little breadcrumbs throughout their discography hinting at a record like Blushing. Sonically, this record features a cornucopia of various, exaggerated tempos and genres, each band member diving headfirst into experimenting how far they can take Copeland’s sound. Produced by Marsh, he explained that the band “wanted to emphasize each element of sound harder, like an exaggerated version of Copeland’s sound. We could be each thing individually by pushing each facet of our art in a more focused way.” The trio – Marsh, along with Bryan and Stephen Laurenson – manipulate, distort, and experiment in the way Ixora and its twin counterpart did, only this time cranked all the way to eleven, creating soundscapes in the vein of 22, A Million and Blonde.
Five years ago, Ixora closed with the soaring ballad “In Her Arms You Will Never Starve” – a proclamation of security, love, and trust. But “Waltz on Water” finishes Blushing amongst the rubble of a relationship destroyed, that security diminished, as Marsh’s pitch-altered vocals reveal that “I’m drowning here on solid ground.” Instead of standing up and fighting, our narrator escapes again into the celestial, begging, “come and lay with me/’cause I can’t slow my dreaming.” Underneath all of Blushing’s luscious production and swelling instrumentation are the sometimes thrilling, sometimes harsh realities within the complexities of being in love with another person. Copeland never pulls any punches, creating a record that’s equally exhilarating as it is heartbreaking, resulting in one of the young year’s most saliently vivid listens.