Review Summary: Copeland deliver a rather adventurous look at what happiness should sound like, with a mature level of musicianship, this fourth album is sure to immediately please, but only time will tell how long that initial enthusiasm will last.
Copeland release their brightest album to date, where Eat sleep repeat focused on the mundane, colder and darker set of emotions we experience, 'You are my sunshine' is a complete shift in focus, bringing forth an overall positive sound and painting a beautiful landscape of happiness and every other positive emotion one may encounter.
You are my sunshine, flows through a set of 11 works of art, each song playing off the general themes of love happiness and positivity. The first thing any listener (in particular existing Copeland fans) will notice, is the extreme level of overproduction apparent through the entirety of the album. Every aspect of the record from the vocals to the instruments, have a certain 'warmth' to them. Through either the natural tone or timbre of the instruments or heavy compression and processing it is undeniable that the overall tonality and impression of the album is due in large part to this 'warm sound'.
Aaron marsh's vocals dance a fine line between angelic and annoying, for the most part they work in his favour. With such an airy voice, there is only so much marsh can deliver vocally before it starts to become a rehash of elements from previous songs. The layering of his vocals highlights a subtle interplay between melody and harmony that helps to bring his vocal tracks to life. Though at times taxing, the layering and placement of the vocal tracks in the mix gives his voice a slightly artificial fullness. A perfect example is the cd opener 'Should You Return', the first minute exemplifies the aforementioned sound that crops up in various forms through the record. Lyrically, this album is no shining star. The songs seemingly revolve around relationships, love and life, nothing too standout in that department. But occasionally, mixed with the musical backdrop, manages to paint a lush picture in the mind of listener.
The vast range of instruments along with their individual tone and timbre used on this record is probably the part that will 'make or break' this record for any listener. Verging on over-pretentious and highly ambitious, Copeland deliver what could be described as a 'sonic overload'. For the most part. the songs explodes with the sound of a wall of instruments strongly akin to an orchestra. Each of the individual instruments have a soft voicing on their own. For example the guitar sounds through most of the album are very clean and compressed with a very limited use of overdrive. But with so much going on in each song, it tends to pile up leaving a scenario where each instrument is fighting strongly to be heard. This could be due to the similar tonal range most of the instruments sit in, or the choice of notes/chords used. But either way at times the instruments feel like nothing more than a wall of wailing 'niceness'.
But at the same time, the wide palette of instruments works to bring out the dynamics of many of the songs. Such as is evident on the 7th track 'On the Safest Ledge'. The song starts fairly soft and mellow with a range of 'airy' instruments producing a subtle backdrop for marsh's vocals, eventually moving into the hook of the song. A swirling mix of drums, guitars, woodwind instruments, strings and pianos all ascending up their scales to a crescendo where marsh sings 'keep it all right here safe in my arms'. The song then slowly descends back down to the verse, taking the listener along with the aid of some relaxation of the instruments.
On the other hands songs such as 'Not Allowed', 'Strange and Unprepared' and 'Chin Up'(for the most part) focus on a more minimalistic sound. 'Strange and Unprepared' in particular featuring just a piano (or could be a mellotron) and some background sounds. The problem with the songs executed in this fashion is that marsh's vocals are usually not quite enough to sustain interest in the songs for the listeners, leaving the songs sounding fairly bland.
Copeland have basically left behind their 'rockier' sound that was found on in motion and beneath medicine tree. With a look at maturing their sound, this generally has worked in their favour with this album helping move them further from the 'pop punk' label their previous work was always slapped with. While highly ambitious 'You are....' retains a strong grounding in the use of fairly conventional structures and musical triggers. There are a few flashes and instances where there is a strong focus on the dynamics of the songs, but they are few and far between leaving a lot of the songs sitting in a similar dynamic range which occasionally leads to monotony and a feeling of deja vu.
Sonically, 'You are my sunshine' is a complete divergence from the foundations laid by 'Eat Sleep Repeat' but it still retains a lot of the ideas and growth that Copeland showed in the aforementioned. While the latter record focused on the sadder aspects of life, this record shifts its focus entirely and with a more refined and mature sound, manages to drag the listeners into the mood. At the end of the day, you will either hate this album or love it, i don't think there really is a middle ground with music of this vein (ie Illuminate by Lydia
In conclusion, Copeland have delivered another stellar record, while fixing some of the flaws of previous works, they manage to introduce a few more, making the album fall short of what it could've been. Whether you view it as 1 long piece or a set of intertwined works, Copeland bring just enough melody and harmony to leave you feeling slightly more positive.