Have you ever had one of those dreams that were so real, so vivid and beautiful, that when you awoke the next morning you, for a split second, believed you were still living it? If you have then it is quite likely that you have also felt that sense of sadness and longing that comes over you when reality finally starts to settle in. Copeland’s sixth studio record, Blushing, aims to explore the duality and tension between these lucid dreams and the harsher, or to put it in more honest terms, mundane reality that lies just outside of them.
Hey, hey, are you awake? You should probably get up and get going. I don’t want to be rushed.
Copeland’s music has never been unfamiliar with experimentation. With every record the band has released up to this point, they have managed to stretch their musical palette a little wider every time. To expand on that thought for a second, I want to place a bit more emphasis on the word little. Unlike many of Copeland’s contemporaries who began their career as bewildered emos trying to cope with the heartache of life, Copeland’s artistic progression has been a subtle but fascinatingly noticeable one. It’s the kind of evolution that fans can grow along with and live beside. Beneath Medicine Tree and In Motion spoke to the youth of that generation with their faster (a relative term here) and more optimistic outlook on the world. Eat, Sleep, Repeat was released just as many fans were beginning to understand the mundane reality of adulthood and You Are My Sunshine provided a fresh sense of hope far richer and more grounded than the oblivious optimism of earlier days. And when their fans had finally settled into an “ordinary” life with the lovers they had found, they were given Ixora as that chapter’s beautifully romantic soundtrack.
The one thing all of these records have in common is that they’re always looking ahead. There’s always that next chapter just around the corner even if, as in Ixora’s case, it’s simply more of the same. In this respect, Blushing is an entirely unfamiliar record for Copeland. It looks backwards instead of forwards, to a reality that was instead of a reality that is. A mundane, colourless life. And for someone as sentimental as Aaron Marsh (and likewise many of his fans), Blushing is just heartbreaking. When Marsh sings, “Can we just lay here? / Beautiful morning / Tell me all of your worries / Give me all of your love” he wraps up his words in a sense of isolation and longing. As The National taught its fans on their detached effort, Sleep Well Beast, adulthood can all too quickly slip into apathy and disinterest. But whereas The National accepts that fact, Copeland refuses to admit that any kind of effort to reignite the flame, to turn the dream into reality once more, is a waste.
Call me crazy. Some nights I think it’s true / Call me desperate. At times I am for you / Call me f–k up. At least I pull myself up.
The music itself lends to the record’s lonely, late-night feel. Bathed in a hazy and sensual dream-pop style, Blushing is, at once, unlike anything Copeland has written and yet perfectly consistent with everything before it. It takes elements from their past material (i.e. the subtle electronics and soulful moments of Ixora, the melancholic moments from Eat, Sleep, Repeat that swell with orchestral strings, etc.) and enhances them, taking them to their furthermost extreme.
The compositions are also enchanting and often unpredictable, as tracks like “Suddenly” and “Colourless” can attest to. The former boasts an out of left field brass section that sounds like it was lifted right out of a John Coltrane record, while the latter leaves its listeners breathless with an explosive instrumental bridge. The electronics that were so subtle on Ixora appear fully formed here, as on “Lay Here” and the spellbinding “Night Figures.” To add to the record’s unpredictable nature we even hear the band’s first usage of profanity on “Strange Flower” during its most emotionally potent moment. And yet, despite Blushing’s rather erratic personality, every moment, every note and autotuned vocal hook, feels meticulously placed and thoughtfully executed. Not a note is wasted.
Copeland meant the world to me back in 2014 and just over four years later their music is weaving its way into my life and the life of its fans once again. Blushing is everything a longtime fan of the band could have hoped for. The songwriting is poignant, the music gorgeously heartbreaking, and the production impeccable. It’s a masterwork of eloquence and intricacie that deserves to be mentioned as one of the year’s finest musical moments.