Review Summary: Everybody knows that you'd break your neck to keep your chin up.
Stumbling upon a new favorite album is always a magical experience replete with awe, wonder, whimsy, and any other gay adjective you want to throw in there, but the experience takes on added meaning when said album is released by a band you didn’t previously consider to be great. Such is the case with You Are My Sunshine
and Copeland. The alt/indie rock band sprang out of the same Florida scene that produced Underoath and Anberlin and there are many (mainly the females on Absolutepunk.net) who consider Copeland’s debut album, Beneath Medicine Tree
, to be a classic of the modern melodic rock scene because of its warm, inviting mid-tempo rockers and vocalist Aaron Marsh’s sensitive-guy persona. Personally, I thought Beneath Medicine Tree
could maybe make for a decent One Tree Hill
soundtrack but nothing more. Copeland did improve with their second album, In Motion
, which picked up the tempo a little bit and wasn’t as reminiscent of a Lifetime TV movie, but I still considered them to be an inferior band to, say, Anberlin and Mae and the like. 2006’s Eat, Sleep, Repeat
found the band branching out considerably from their base sound – far slower and more piano-driven with atmospheric instead of power-chord guitars, Copeland began to push themselves away from their Alternative Press contemporaries and more towards indie pop. While containing a few outstanding songs (“When You Thought You’d Never Stand Out” and the title track), much of Eat, Sleep, Repeat
was just pleasantly benign – good music to play around the house, for sure, but not something that left an indelible impression in your mind.
You Are My Sunshine
, Copeland’s first record under Tooth & Nail Records, basically picks up where Eat, Sleep, Repeat
left off – if anything, it’s more melancholy and moody. However, YAMS
hits harder in every possible facet – the sad moments are sadder, the happy moments are happier, the beautiful passages are prettier and so on. Aaron Marsh’s vocals still dominate the soundscape, but added little sonic flourishes throughout make the album far more interesting than anything Copeland has ever done. These flourishes are sometimes more obvious than others, such as the expansive string sections on “Should You Return” and “On the Safest Ledge”, but it’s often the quieter additions, such as the driving bass at the end of “The Grey Man” or the electronic programming on “Good Morning Fire Eater” and “Not Allowed”, that mark the improvement the band has made. They also break from their genre occasionally with great success, throwing a jazz bridge into the middle of the otherwise sparse “The Day I Lost My Voice” or adding a bassoon solo to the ten-minute closer “Not So Tough Found Out.” On top of that, guitarist Bryan Laurenson makes the best of every opportunity he gets, whether it be gritty rock-n-roll riffs (“What Do I Know?”) or beautiful, Explosions in the Sky-esque atmospherics (“Chin Up”, “Not So Tough Found Out”). While not terribly complex, YAMS
is consistently beautiful, moving, and occasionally awe-inspiring.
But the best part of You Are My Sunshine
is undoubtedly the vocals of Aaron Marsh, who has weeded out the inconsistencies of past efforts and become a truly outstanding vocalist. His uncannily high register (for a dude, at least) is angelic and remarkably soothing and pacifying. On past Copeland records, his voice would sometimes cross over the line of being delicate and simply fall under the category of “Pansy”, but experience and practice seem to have fixed that problem. And the results are stunning. Marsh balances the use of falsetto and normal singing to great effect throughout the disc, but he also beautifully layers his vocals, such as on the dreamy “Should You Return” or melancholy “Chin Up.” Put his vocals together with the gorgeous guest vocals of Rae Cassidy Klagstad and it’s quite possible that this is the best record of the year as far as vocals are concerned.
It’s tough to find flaws with You Are My Sunshine
. Well, yes, the album title itself is kind of lame, but I learned to stop judging albums by their titles way back in 2006. There are a few tracks that could be deemed “filler,” but Marsh’s vocals are so good that it’s hard to care. There also isn’t a great deal of variation on the disc, but again, who cares? It’s like saying, “Hawaii’s climate doesn’t change enough” or “Jessica Alba is just too damn hot all the time” – I don’t really see a problem with it, personally. I just know that this record is thisclose to being perfect on mopey, rainy days when all you want to hear is pretty music that makes you feel better about being depressed.
Should You Return
The Grey Man
The Day I Lost My Voice (The Suitcase Song)
Not So Tough Found Out