No one was really expecting a new Copeland record by year's end, but as it turned out, an intriguing viral marketing campaign and wildfire word-of-mouth ushered in the developing news that, indeed, a new album was on the horizon. And not only that, but this new piece of work was only a few short months away. As the days and weeks passed, the mysteries surrounding You Are My Sunshine faded, and finally, here it is.
Frontman Aaron Marsh seems to attempt something entirely new on every new project he tackles. Beneath Medicine Tree had indie flair, In Motion was melodic, Eat, Sleep, Repeat was dark and ambient, and You Are My Sunshine takes a little bit of all of that and makes it a calculated, concise piece of work. Admittedly, and understandably, it borrows the most from its immediate predecessor Eat, Sleep, Repeat. In other words, expect more drum loops (a la "I'm Safer on an Airplane"), and less guitar driven hooks ("No One Really Wins This Time").
That is not to say that You Are My Sunshine doesn't have its moments. In fact, it is at its best when it ups the ante. The album's standout track, "On the Safest Ledge," starts out "safe" enough while building the musical tension as it describes the act of jumping off a cliff. Indeed, Aaron Marsh is at his musical and lyrical best when he describes a God who romances His people, and the way in which this picture is inherent in our relationships with the opposite sex, "Don't look ahead. Just run to me. Each step will find the next one recklessly…Could you be happy to fall like a stone, if you'd land right here safe in my arms? It's fine. Lock all the doors through the night. Keep it all right here safe in my arms. It's fine." The words initiate a growing intensity, giving the sensation of standing on a ledge, and jumping with reckless abandon.
The rest of the album is a little more reigned in, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, there isn't a mediocre track in the crop, but the subtle intensity of "On the Safest Ledge" almost begs for more songs like it. Admittedly, there is a lot of mystery that surrounds You Are My Sunshine (Ironically, the most straight forward album title yet for Copeland). The lyrics are a lot more cryptic than in releases past, as are the nuances surrounding the different musical decisions inherent. Even the album closer, "Not So Tough Found Out," is something of a mystery begging to be solved. How exactly does it tie up all the loose ends and bring everything together? Songs like "The Grey Man" and "Strange and Unprepared" are beautiful in their own right, and understood with relative ease, but they are the exception, not the rule. Other songs, like "Should You Return," are almost too easy to unlock, and demand a second and third and fourth look. Because when it comes down to it, Aaron Marsh is a very calculated individual. These songs were not just thrown together, as much as it may seem so on the first few listens.
Indeed, and much like the viral campaign that ushered it in, You Are My Sunshine begs for second glances, back-pedaling, re-examining of clues, etc. Thankfully, the music is aesthetically appealing enough to merit these kinds of extended glances. It remains to be seen how well this one will be received by the general public. Assuredly, some will feel further betrayed by this continued regression from the sounds of Beneath Medicine Tree and In Motion, while others will praise Copeland for this intriguing ambiguity that requires listen after listen. This review takes the latter stance. You Are My Sunshine is a rich, lush, complex fifty minutes of music that you would do well to plunge into.- Review date: 10/29/08, written by Josh Taylor of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Tooth & Nail Records
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