By Michael Belt
I have a very bad habit of embracing old trends before they’re popular again. Whereas one defines a hipster as someone who embraces trends before they’re cool, I enjoy jumping on the bandwagon once the trend comes back in style. I find myself starting to enjoy bands who had once broken up right as they get back together. The latest of these is Florida-based indie rock quartet Copeland. After disbanding 6 years ago, Copeland gave their desperate fandom what they wanted: a brand new, full-length record, titled Ixora. Once considered a cruel joke (their return was announced on April Fools’ Day), it soon evolved into a fully-realized project. Given the copious amount of praise their work garnered, I decided to venture through their impressive discography in time for release, and here we are in November. The record is here and ready for our consumption. Needless to say, the wait paid off.
Ixora opens with “Have I Always Loved You?”, a minimal but soulful track that shares a similar melody to that of the next one, “Disjointed”, which begins with the sound of a vibraphone that quickly leads into a layered ensemble of horns, woodwinds, piano, guitar, drums, synthesizers, and instruments galore as vocalist Aaron Marsh flawlessly switches in and out of falsetto. The highlight of the track, however, is the layered and dynamic outro that harkens back to their third record, Eat, Sleep, Repeat. It’s clear that the six year absence has matured their sound even more so than their previous record, You Are My Sunshine.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTSMQMybo-0[/youtube]
“I Can Make You Feel Young Again” brings a darker feel to the record. Marsh’s vocals are harmonically doubled and flanged and drummer Jonathan Bucklew does a great job alternating between a driving and swing-like feel. The guitars are sonically peaked to perfection. “Erase” showcases Marsh’s falsetto at its best. The instrumentation is layered to the point where one listen won’t suffice to catch every detail. It reaches emotional depths that You Are My Sunshine only scratched the surface of, and ends on an unresolved melody for added effect.
“Lavender” is by far the most experimental on the record. Relying on unconventional drum sounds and synthesizers, an expansively-played piano fills in the gaps. While the vocals have a slight bit of modulation near the end, this is used for effect rather than pitch correction. It leads into “Ordinary”, which was released back in April following the announcement of the record, but since then has been given a better mix that highlights each layer of the track more so than before. It’s the most simplistic track on Ixora, comprised mainly of piano and vocals, but it still stands out as a highlight of the record.
“Like a Lie” has a Frank Ocean-esque feel that’s mainly due to the minimal instrumentation and quiet vocals. Lyrically I found myself drawn in by the line “It feels like a lie when I hold you”. It’s followed by “Chiromancer”, featuring guest vocals from Steff Koeppen, who complements Aaron’s greatly. The instrumentation takes the best of the band’s previous two records and scatters it while maintaining a sense of consistency. “World Turn” begins with the sound of falling rain that transitions nicely into Marsh’s falsetto. The highlight of this track is the introduction of a saxophone halfway through. It’s relaxing and works well with the somber acoustic guitar.
Ixora closes with “In Her Arms You Will Never Starve”. It’s a great summary of everything that’s come before. Like a more-content version of one of their older tracks, “Love Affair”, it’s their best closing track yet, filled with an overall sense of completion that their previous four records couldn’t pull off as well.[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/170910172″ /]
Copeland has given their fans both the record they need and deserve after a six year absence. Every listen of Ixora leaves one discovering overlooked elements while simultaneously wanting more. I find myself not wanting to put it down. It feels like all my emotions are thrown out of place and put back together at the same time. Old fans and new alike will find something to love with this record. It’s one of the best releases you’ll hear this year, as well as the best in Copeland’s catalog.