Review Summary: A scream into the infinite.
Love is one of the greatest injustices in life. You can wander the Earth for eighty some odd years and never meet your kindred soul
; a baffling concept that’s as naïve as believing in the tooth fairy – or religion. In spite of this, we all flock to romanticized narrations of our experiences like moths to the flame. We can’t help it – it justifies our meaninglessness by countering the mundanity of our existence with melodrama; with color
. As we desperately splash hues upon our canvas, pleading with the colors to make sense – we’re most often disappointed when the outcome doesn’t match the vision in our heads. “But he/she was the one
!” is the hopeless refrain of the brokenhearted and desperate, a product of unrealistic expectations fashioned out of the desire – nay, the need
– to justify our place on this sad, depressing stone flying through the cosmos for absolutely no reason.
sees Copeland trying to reconcile the romantic and existential implications of love through the lens of a dream. We’ve all been there before: the locking of eyes, the ensuing rush of excitement, that tantalizingly playful touch…and then you wake up. You shut your eyes as hard as you can, hoping to force your way back into that alternate reality where happiness was just barely
out of reach – and instead you dream of blackness, nothingness. On Blushing
, Marsh dives deep into this world, inviting us to let our guard down with him while exploring the most vulnerable conditions of human existence.
From the beginning, Blushing
glazes over one’s senses with a dreamlike ambience. The delicate piano flutters and distant, wailing falsetto – all accelerated by somber strings and Marsh’s lyrical fluidity (“But it's getting dark, I can feel it / Still your body curves, it bends like time / And your soul gleams, like I should steal it”) – make ‘Pope’ the perfect song to send us plummeting into his dream world. Accented by hints of romanticism and a couple gorgeous, softly-whispered nudges of “are you awake？” - by an idolized and ever-mysterious feminine figure - all contribute to the atmosphere of Blushing
; one that disarms you with its close proximity while ensnaring your senses and emotions with an addictingly melancholic aura. The melodrama is already in full swing after just one song, as we hang on Marsh’s every word and sway along to Blushing
’s love-drunk whims like patrons on an amusement park ride. Could Copeland have constructed a better analogy for falling in love than dreaming
, where we’re helpless either way and equally unaware of what is real？
If ‘Pope’ is the moment where we take that proverbial leap, then the rest of the album entails the story of falling in love with someone, or the concept of a person, who is but a mere figment of your imagination. Marsh constantly acknowledges this in his writing, such as in ‘Lay Here’, when his high-pitched falsetto cuts through a sea of sleepy electronics to sing, “You're sweet like wine against my lips / How it lingers”, or in ‘As Above, So Alone’, where he forlornly laments, “Even when your words fail, I still can feel it.” The latter alludes to how differently emotions are expressed in a dream; rarely does the object of affection ever speak, instead substituting a tacit connection that lingers long after the dream is over...like "wine against one’s lips." These songs are more about Marsh's infatuation with this dreamt up, ideal woman than it is an actual relationship. I’m reminded of the 2013 film Her
, in which Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with an artificially intelligent virtual assistant
not too dissimilar from Siri (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The movie covers a lot of themes about unconventional romance, and there are parallels in the way that Aaron marsh writes and sings about this imagined soul mate. Both works imply that love, as a construct of imagination (perhaps its only form), is both limitless and beautiful - even if it often drives us to madness.
Although every song on Blushing
has specific “moments” worthy of their own dissertations, there are a handful of notable apexes. Aside from the brilliant opener, ‘Pope’, one of the most breathtaking songs comes via the mesmerizing, artistic wit of ‘Skywriter’ – a track that is perhaps worth more on paper than it is in a studio. Marsh poses questions that appear, on the surface, to be the frustrated exhales of a hopeless romantic: “What's the use in loving you if it just makes me crazy？” / “What's the point of taking your hand if we just turn and walk away？” In the context of Blushing
, however, they take on a greater magnitude: what’s crazier than loving a girl from your dreams ？Is it any less crazy than thinking love exists in the real world, or that your “other half” is somewhere out there waiting for you？ Is love anything more than what we make it？He then sings, “Some nights he screams into the infinite / Tries to write a line that will outlive him.” At first I interpreted this as a soundwave screamed into space, but he could also be talking about actually writing a line
that transcends his own existence – that people would still read and reference after his death. The fact that just a couple of verses could result in so many possible interpretations is a testament to Marsh’s lyrical prowess, and ‘Skywriter’ brings a distinct existential
dimension to the narration. Aaron makes it clear that his search for romance is but a crutch; a substitute for a much larger void that likely can't be fulfilled. The concept is symbolized within the album's artwork, where the "dream girl" - who should
be the one obscured - appears entirely clear, while the person she is kissing (presumably Marsh) is blurred out; his identity entirely in question.
All of this tension subtly builds to Blushing
's epicenter, ‘Colorless’, which is a culmination and subsequent release of kinetic energy. Marsh doubts his own sanity (“These days I'm terrified of silence / My thoughts unbearable in the quiet”) and you can begin to feel his emotions crumble to the ground (“Were we colorless anyway？"). All of this precedes an earth-shattering guitar solo that feels like it’s straight out of the playbook of Foxing, Manchester Orchestra, or Brand New. Finally, the mayhem sticks a soft landing on this cloud of swelling strings and brass, as Aaron laments, “Ohh-ohh, I can't save myself.” The entire song is a marvel to behold, and the sheer energy that emanates from it is enough to send shock waves throughout the rest of Blushing
– leaving listeners still trembling in its reverberations long after the album’s run time has expired.
If ‘Colorless’ is the record's musical fault line, then ‘Strange Flower’ is its emotional zenith. It ties together nearly every motif that Blushing
sets into motion, all before engaging in the most heart-wrenching outro I’ve heard in any modern indie-rock piece: “Call me crazy, some nights I think it's true / Call me desperate, at times I am for you / Call me 'fuck up', at least I pull myself up.” The entire section feels like a revelation, this heartbreakingly sincere admission of need and vulnerability, stated so clearly that it’s enough to make you misty-eyed. It functions as something of a resolution: Marsh is admitting he that he needs this woman, this concept
of perfection, in order to validate himself - something that makes him weak but also very much human. At this precise moment, the worlds of romance, existence, and identity all intersect, and he wakes up, not coincidentally, to his name
. The spoken-word track ‘It Felt So Real’ is an extension of that outro’s finality, concluding the dream by returning to the softly whispered female voice that began the whole experience - almost like the finger snap to end a hypnosis: “We were dancing and there were people everywhere, but no one could see us / No one else could hear the music / The people disappeared, and the music stopped / I was trying to say things, but the only thing that would come out was just your name / Over and over, just your name / And then you just smiled, like you woke up.
So, what is Blushing
？On the surface, it's a collage of loosely-related romantic ideas. However, it's also a melodramatic tale of falling in love with an imaginary woman who symbolizes an ever-evasive deeper purpose
- one that, like a dream, always seems just out of reach. It’s acknowledging that love comes in many forms, and that it’s mostly what you make it. It's realizing that allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a necessary step to achieving happiness, or any sort of purpose or clarity. It’s a personal journey with universal implications, performed as Copeland’s magnum opus. It is the line that will undoubtedly outlive Marsh, his “scream into the infinite” on the behalf of so many frustrated and heartbroken souls who are still waiting to see the color in their lives; it's his answer...his purpose
on this forsaken planet. Most of all, it's inspiration to rediscover love and existence; to learn the colors that define you and to paint your entire world in them.
Now, go write your own infinite line.