“Your music helped save my life.”
These words are so simple, so jarring and so potent. Almost every musician has heard them at one point in time. While some may be exaggerated and overstated, the fact remains that music is one of the strongest voices in this world and its impact can never be underestimated.
How is this relevant, you ask? Copeland helped save my life.
Flashback to 2009, what should have been one of the happiest times in a young adult’s life. With senior year coming to an end, graduation in a matter of days and the exciting adventure of college ahead, what more could someone want? This was something I asked myself daily, struggling with the idea of the future or what my life would even become. This isn’t an uncommon emotion, but that did little to assuage me. Quite simply, there was no way to shake the anxiety. I spent endless nights contemplating how I would end my life, how I would escape the personal hell that had engulfed me. And then one night, I found the clarity I had been so desperately seeking. Aided by an alcohol-infused stupor I dove headfirst into Copeland’s You Are My Sunshine. Suddenly, it all made sense. Life is not meant to be perfect. Our pain, our trials, our discomfort and our uncertainty shape our existence in this world.
Frontman Aaron Marsh figured this out long ago and that is the very core of what drives Copeland. The cult-like following the band generated over the years is drawn from the jaws of pain and ultimately the solace that follows. When asked about the band’s first album in six years, Marsh described the impetus for the album as this: “Struggling with depression in what should be a very joyful time in my life.” While his explanation is simple and succinct, the statement resounds throughout Ixora, resulting in a beautifully haunting experience.
Ixora was announced to the world on April Fool’s Day leaving fans everywhere wondering if the band was up to no good once again following their takeover of Fall Out Boy’s Citizens For Our Betterment Campaign of 2008. The marketing ploy worked and left fans wondering what exactly the band was up to? Were these just hijinks? Did they realize they were pulling at our heart strings? Those doubts were quickly diminished with the release of “Ordinary,” a gorgeous piano ballad showcasing the same sonic flourishes that the band had perfected on You Are My Sunshine. Not only did “Ordinary” give us our first taste of Ixora, but it built the foundation for Copeland’s most cohesive and affecting release to date.
Copeland’s fifth full length album starts with “Have I Always Loved You,” one of the slowest and most heartfelt tracks. Instantly, the song sets the stage for the masterpiece that is Ixora. The acoustic intro with Marsh’s layered vocals floods your ears with signature Copeland sounds, illustrating that the band has indeed perfected their craft. “Disjointed” follows and affirms that the quartet has a better grasp on who and what they are than most bands will ever strive for in a lifetime. Soaring falsetto, masterfully crafted strings and deep bass lines fill the space resulting in an emotional integrity that would make most shutter. In listening to “Disjointed” it is almost as if Copeland is so far ahead of their peers that few could do anything to try and catch up. That sentiment is what makes Ixora stand out and leave it unmatched.
“I Can Make You Feel Young Again” showcases what the band has been working to perfect over the past decade: Marsh crooning over sweeping guitars with ambient elements sprinkled throughout. The song not only demonstrates how Marsh has grown as a songwriter, but also as an artist. On “I Can Make You Feel Young Again,” the compositions are mastered to perfection.
The quartet follows up “ I Can Make You Feel Young Again” with “Erase,” one of their strongest songs to date and one of Marsh’s strongest lyrical and vocal efforts. “Erase” exemplifies a band borne of the emo boom that took their work to new heights. Beginning with key strokes that resemble Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticismand Plans, the song slowly builds, delivering ever so delicately. “Erase” gradually builds with beds of strings, layered vocals and lush instrumentation. The end result drops you to your knees with a devastating crash, a touch the band has perfected over the course of their career. Gracefully, “Erase” concludes with a cinematic finish, once again adding to the band’s vast arsenal.
Hitting the halfway point of the album, “Lavender” is a change of pace. Featuring a thumping electronic beat, it is easily the band’s most aggressive production to date. It serves as perfect segue for “Ordinary” which gives the album a chance to breathe, offering the listener a chance to pause and prepare for what is still to come. “Like A Lie” perfectly exemplifies why Copeland is the only band who can do what they do: that is compose a somber and distraught love song with effortless ease. Framed by the lines “How could I ever love you more/ How could I ever keep you here/ I can only make this worse/ I can only grasp for more,” Like a Lie” leaves you with a sinking stomach. That feeling doesn’t last long though as the chorus kicks in and Marsh utters the lines “It feels like a lie when I hold you/Feels like a lie but it comes true/And you knew I was lost when I found you/Though it feels like a lie when I hold you.” Once again, Copeland has crafted another classic song, another page in an already stacked catalog of heart marionettes.
Ixora comes to a close with arguably three of the best songs the group has ever created. “Chiromancer” once again draws on Marsh’s impeccable ear for discovering some of the best untapped female talent in the country. Much like her predecessors, Steff Koeppen shines. As “Chiromancer” rises, her voice is engulfed in lush soundscapes. Perhaps most importantly, her voice exquisitely compliments Marsh’s emotive croons, resulting in a song that stands high above its peers. Following in the simple footsteps of “Ordinary,” “World Turn” is the precursor for closer “In Her Arms You Will Never Starve.” “World Turn” opens with falling rain, an echoing acoustic guitar and a new wrinkle in the band’s sonic palette: a saxophone. The decision to add a saxophone reiterates just how far the band will go to expand their craft. “In Her Arms You Will Never Starve” brings Ixora to an astonishing finish with Marsh singing “What if you can’t turn back?/ What if you can’t turn back when you’re finally tired of running?” When the song finally fades away, you are left with with no other choice but to hit replay.
When all is said and done, Ixora is the record Copeland has been striving to make since the release of Eat, Sleep Repeat. Quite simply, there hasn’t been a Copeland album as complete as Ixora. While people’s tastes change with time, Copeland remains that one constant. In the end, we’re all lost souls. And while some stay lost longer than others, there’s always the assurance of Copeland. In this crazy thing called life, they are a vessel for many and Ixora is another beautiful storm we get to ride out together. Let’s hope for another one soon.