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Album Review
Copeland - You Are My Sunshine Album Cover

Copeland - You Are My Sunshine

Reviewed by
9.2
CopelandYou Are My Sunshine
Release Date: October 14, 2008
Record Label: Tooth and Nail
With all that has happened over the past two years, it is hard not to feel privileged to have a new Copeland album upon us. After all, signs seemed to point to this record not being made at all. After the release of Eat, Sleep, Repeat, the band saw the departure of bassist James Likeness, parted ways with Columbia Records, sold their van and trailer, unloaded their demos and b-sides, and generally just slipped off the radar. Outside of some sporadic touring, there was little news coming out of the Copeland camp – no label decision, no recording updates – nothing. However, in a brilliant coup of marketing genius (and perhaps boredom-fueled creativity), Copeland hijacked Fall Out Boy’s CFOB campaign, and while neutering the buzz around Wentz’s (or Island's) brainchild, used it instead to announce the imminent arrival of You Are My Sunshine.

So, while Copeland certainly has a trademark sound to claim as their own, their previous three albums are all quite markedly different. As such, it was certainly interesting to hypothesize where the Lakeland troupe would go with this one, especially since Eat, Sleep, Repeat is the type of record that a band could really retire on, feeling like they placed a perfect capstone on a nice run. But instead of just packing it in, Copeland has returned, seemingly refreshed ("Run right back to the start"), and have put together an album that incorporates some of the finest elements of their previous offerings.

You Are My Sunshine begins in distinct Copeland fashion on “Should You Return,” with Aaron Marsh’s delicate crooning floating along airily atop sparse verse instrumentation. Of course, as beautiful as this combination is known to be, it is made all the more affecting with some of the most resonant lyrical construction since Beneath Medicine Tree.

You see the night is all I have to make me feel
And all I want is just a love to make it hurt
‘Cause all I need is something fine to make me lose
Now it’s a funny way – I find myself with you

It is lines and themes like these that then go on to personify the record. There is the inherent brooding sense of doubt and foreboding that pervaded on Eat, Sleep, Repeat, but the edges of those clouds now seem softened by a sense of hope and optimism – both in word and sound. In this way, the opener is less a revelation and more a sigh of relief – Copeland is back.

On the tracks that follow, Copeland draw quite deftly from their experience cache. “The Grey Man” starts off like “Kite Part II” but then pulls a switcheroo in the vein of Death Cab’s “Title Track” as Jon Bucklew’s drums kick on a half minute in. The song does a great job of combining the highbrow indie pop of ESR and the mainstream accessibility of In Motion, and is indeed a solid choice for a first single. After this development, the inclusion of “Chin Up” is a bit of a letdown for those that own Dressed Up & In Line, since the remake doesn’t bring too much to the table outside of a still-satisfying crescendo that is far more fleshed out than on the demo. The disc rebounds after, though, with some truly gratifying moments. “Good Morning Fire Eater” sounds like nothing Copeland has done before – with a decidedly springtime melody carried almost exclusively by Marsh’s constant falsetto. The result is both operatic and cinematic, and centers around the emotive line, “I’m afraid you’ve stopped to lick your wounds.”

The sugary sound is not ever-present, however, as “To Be Happy Now” takes up a much moodier, darker, ESR-like tone. The track itself is somewhat by-the-numbers, ups the ante for the bridge, where Marsh’s dramatic vocals bring down the house in a way we haven’t really heard since his superman note on “You Have My Attention.” Similar backdrops are painted for later tracks – the classical muted majesty of “The Safest Ledge” and the melancholy minimalism of “Strange and Unprepared.”

In the midst of these excellent songs, Copeland rises above their own high standard with the album’s highlight, “The Day I Lost My Voice (The Suitcase Song).” Breezing in with “Strawberry Fields Forever”-like mellotron flutters and Marsh ambling along over soft percussion and horns, the tune is striking in its simplicity and elegance. But it gives goosebumps when everything yields dutifully to Aaron signing, “I’ve got my life in a suitcase / I’m ready to run, run, run away / I’ve got no time, ‘cause I’m always trying to run, run, run away / Every day in here feels like it’s only a game / I’ve got my life in a suitcase, a suitcase, a suitcase.” It sounds simple enough, but the execution is completely arresting – delivering one of the best songs the band has ever crafted.

Copeland likewise strikes emotional pay dirt on “Not Allowed,” which again draws upon the shadowy facets of ESR, yet with much more urgency and emotion – reflected in kind with the lyrics that scores of fans can relate to, as we dress up out own sadness to keep others in good spirits (“Here you go I’ll smile for you now, ‘cause you’re sad and I’m not allowed to be sad”). In true Copeland fashion, they then go on to close out You Are My Sunshine in an epic frame. “Not So Tough Found Out” is a ten and a half minute opus stuffed with gorgeous Marsh-only vocal layerings, buzzing electronic static distortion, a dulcet female guest spot, shuffling percussion underscores, and lonely guitar wails rolling into bombastic swells. A testament to its creators that such a prolonged coda leaves its listeners yearning for more.

With You Are My Sunshine, Copeland not only return to the scene, but they sound energized in doing so. Incorporating the mood mastery of Eat, Sleep, Repeat, with some of the energy of In Motion and the intimacy and emotional honesty of Beneath Medicine Tree, the band seems to have found a comfortable place where they truly belong. The gripes with the record are minor. Marsh’s vocals are incredible undisturbed, but too often they are propped up with the crutch of an additional track. Bucklew’s drumming is skillful, but comes across as a little too clinical and impersonal at times – it would be good to hear more of The Real Jon, and less Drum Machine Jon. And finally, it doesn’t sound like Aaron Sprinkle’s influence got to come through enough on the record, as You Are My Sunshine could just as well be a Matt Goldman effort. Of course, the production is aces, and compliments the music well, but it might impact those who had structured expectations on this new pairing. Regardless, in the end, You Are My Sunshine is a breathtaking, stunning release from a band that is adored and admired by so many. Here’s to hoping we get many more such volumes.


Recommended if you like: older Copeland, This Day and Age, Sleeping at Last, Jeremy Larson
This review is a user submitted review from Steve Henderson. You can see all of Steve Henderson's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 198
10:16 AM on 10/07/08
#2
Steve Henderson
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Two things:

1) Sorry for the long review - thanks for reading if you did
2) Copeland band chat on 10/13/08 - be here.
10:27 AM on 10/07/08
#3
jusscali
EMO REVIVAL IS FOR BITCHES
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Got it! Good review. Sometimes records are for too important for brevity
10:28 AM on 10/07/08
#4
Steve Henderson
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Got it! Good review. Sometimes records are for too important for brevity
Haha, this review got a little out of control but I can't think of what I'd cut out.
10:32 AM on 10/07/08
#5
jusscali
EMO REVIVAL IS FOR BITCHES
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It's really just the use of all the lyrics but its totally cool
10:43 AM on 10/07/08
#6
Shakriel
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Great review!

I can't wait for my copy to arrive.
10:53 AM on 10/07/08
#7
Blakebear
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Wow, I was excited for this before, but now, after that positive of a review...

Color me anxious.
10:57 AM on 10/07/08
#8
TooLateF0rRoses
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man, you can write a good review. i didnt think i could get any more stoked for this album, but you found a way. amazing.
11:01 AM on 10/07/08
#9
ReadyForAction
life in the greenhouse effect
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Dont change a thing about this review
I am incredibly stoked for the album, if its as good as this review paints it to be, Only Way To Be Alone may be ousted as my AOTY
11:02 AM on 10/07/08
Blakebear
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Two things:

1) Sorry for the long review - thanks for reading if you did

Just read it.

It is long, but there is nothing wrong with that when it is this well written. I hear a lot of people throw out polite compliments to reviewers when it is obvious that their review lacks revision and refinement. However, in this case I am nothing but serious when I say bravo. You put a lot of work into this and it shows.

Good review.
11:02 AM on 10/07/08
tacosforcharles
it all ends
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Damn that was quite the review. I'm so excited for this.
11:11 AM on 10/07/08
TSLROCKS
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Looks like a good review. The score got me excited. I'm going to hold off on actually reading the entire review until I get my album. Only a few more days!
11:15 AM on 10/07/08
Steve Henderson
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Just read it.

It is long, but there is nothing wrong with that when it is this well written. I hear a lot of people throw out polite compliments to reviewers when it is obvious that their review lacks revision and refinement. However, in this case I am nothing but serious when I say bravo. You put a lot of work into this and it shows.

Good review.


Thanks - I do try...this is a tough one to write.
11:17 AM on 10/07/08
Vismund_Cygnus
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I want ths record so badly...

...absolutely a great review. Good job Steve!
11:31 AM on 10/07/08
FaceLixeMurder
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I am thoroughly excited for this relase :)

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