Review Summary: Copeland is a band that rides the fence between haunting, dreamlike melody and catchy pop sensibilities. With the former being more prevalent on this release, the band take a different path and it pays off for the most part.
Copeland is a band that rides the fence between haunting, dreamlike melody and catchy pop sensibilities. They have a strong knack for writing catchy choruses, while still maintaining an introspective side as well. Until this release, they put most of their focus into the more upbeat aspect of their sound. With “Eat, Sleep, Repeat”, they have embraced a slightly more experimental style that utilizes singer Aaron Marsh’s beautiful voice to create heart-rending songs. There is a unique atmosphere that pervades this whole album, creating an almost baroque feel to the whole affair. Most of the lyrics seem to center around lost love, but the music surrounding the lovely hushed vocals makes this feel like a much fresher listen, and not necessarily a retread of lyrical content. It may be easy to pass this off as another pleasant but run-of-the-mill indie rock-tinged experience, but the strength of these songs lies within the subtleties of the instruments used. Keyboards, xylophones, and several brass instrument arrangements introduce a much more delicate album, and the simplicity of those instruments lend to the overall charm. With that being said, the charm is exactly that; it in all reality distracts listeners from the sometimes repetitive and simple songwriting.
“Where’s My Head” opens up this album in near-perfect fashion, as the xylophone creates a simple pattern and Marsh’s voice asks the listener in an increasingly urgent tone where his head is. The strength of this song is in the somewhat unexpected drum loop that crashes in and out of the meandering and peaceful minimalist guitar line until finally settling in for good at the end of the short song. Copeland does a good job here of ending the song before it overstays its welcome. “Control Freak”, while being another stand-out track on the album, is on the opposite side of Copeland’s repertoire. It is an up-tempo number that relies upon a driving chorus that is instantly memorable. This rockier song is truly the only song that provides the essential catchiness that is much more prevalent on the previous albums, which succeeds in maintaining a much more cohesive album in the long run. It is an interesting dichotomy though, because Copeland as a band is just good at creating catchy tunes that stay stuck in the listener’s head for days on end. The album’s best track is undeniably “Love Affair”, as a dreamy environment is achieved tenfold. The beautiful piano ballad turns into a full band affair halfway through the song, and the transition is perfect with both sections complementing Marsh’s gorgeous vocals. It is here where Copeland’s penchant for experimenting with different sounds and melodies pays off immensely. A similar sound is achieved to a lesser degree on the song, “The Last Time He Saw Dorie”, but the interesting part about this song is that it further cements this album as a sampler platter of what Copeland have to offer sonically. “Careful Now” and “I’m a Sucker For a Kind Word” are upbeat and are somewhat reminiscent of older releases, whereas the title track and “I’m Safer On an Airplane” lend much more to the atmospheric feel on “Eat, Sleep, Repeat”.
While there is quite a bit to enjoy on this release, it feels like the pomps and frills are used to distract from the absence of strong songwriting and lyricism. The music itself is easy on the ears, but for the most part it seems to lack any sort of driving force that would give these songs more substance. Without the intimate voice of Aaron Marsh, the simple lyrics would not be as effective. It does lend to the idea that the pretty outer packaging of the songs are better than the soul that resides within. However, as it stands it is still a strong release by a very capable band. The highlights are very listenable, and Copeland succeed in creating the best album of their career thus far.