Copeland :: Ixora

[Legacy Content]

Release Date: Oct. 24, 2014

I discovered and fell in love with the band Copeland on their last album, 2008’s You Are My Sunshine. If it had been a cassette tape, I would have worn through that record multiple times over. I started most every morning during the spring of 2009 with a complete listen. It was perfect “start the day” music for me. I reached back into their catalog and listened to some of their previous albums, but they almost felt like a different band. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed hearing of their breakup.

That disappointment was relieved earlier this year when the band made the announcement that they would be releasing a new album, Ixora, after a 6 year hiatus. The first sample song that was released via YouTube showed the band picking up exactly where they left off. “Ordinary”

I would like to say more about this album. I almost feel like I’m phoning it in to say what I’m going to say… but it bears saying. There is some music that just fits in a certain “groove”. It’s so melodic and simple that you can’t lift a single song out of context and dissect it fairly. If you ask me for my top 10 Copeland songs, I’m not going to be able to give them to you. If you ask me about my favorite song on the record, I really can’t tell you. I put the album on and I can take my critical shoes off and just stretch my legs out and relax. And that’s the biggest part of what I love about it. I won’t call it “background music,” because I think that would be a harsh dismissal. It’s more like a well-crafted movie score for life. And there’s a place for that nearly every day.

Damien Rice: My Favorite Faded Fantasy

[Legacy Content]

Release Date: November 10, 2014

It’s hard to be very critical when one of your favorite artists only releases 3 albums in 11 years – this one after an 8-year hiatus. So, basically, Damien Rice is the Justin Timberlake of Irish singer-songwriters.

I first discovered Damien Rice while working at Starbucks back when O was released. We had “The Blower’s Daughter,” “Cannonball,” “Delicate,” and “Volcano” all in heavy rotation. Of course, I was only vaguely aware of this until a co-worker specifically called it out. Once I got my hands on that record, though, I was a huge fan. It would be another 3 years before he would release 2006’s 9 Crimes, which at times surpassed while at other points was far inferior to its predecessor. Beyond these two records, however, we’ve had little more than some B-sides, singles, and live recordings to hold us over.

So, after an extended, self-imposed exile Rice returns with eight new tracks produced by the legendary Rick Rubin (who has guided many a beloved artist back to the studio after years of silence). And while eight tracks doesn’t seem like much, I was pleased to see all of them clock in at over 4 minutes, with an 8:09 and 9:33 in there for good measure.

My Favourite Faded Fantasy opens hauntingly enough with the title-track, though it is a gentler introduction than Rice’s previous efforts. Moving into It Takes a Lot to Know a Man,” it become clear that we are listening to the character development of the protagonist whose story began all those years ago on O: older, wiser, more forlorn and less emphatic than he was on 9 Crimes.

“I Don’t Want to Change You” is a seemingly sweet (and thankfully more upbeat) change of pace; however, tucked within its sentimentality is a strong dose of navel-gazing self-pity. It isn’t until “Trusty and True” that things seem to look up for our hero. On it, Rice seems to lift himself up from his pit of despair on the angelic wings of choir. In fact, it is one of the few uses of additional vocalists on the entire album. The track itself begins to feel like a gasp of air for the listener, as well, as the singer finally realizes that “you can’t take back / what is done, what is passed” and finally invites us to “come, come alone / come with fear / come with love / come however you are / just come.”

Rubin’s production on this record is unimpeachable. While he’s never distanced himself too far from the hip hop that he cut his teeth on, he’s one-of-a-kind in what he has offered artists like Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, and what he offers here to Damien Rice. It’s an unadulterated presentation of the artist for who he is, without the pomp and circumstance commonly found in today’s market. In fact, somewhat ironically, Rubin puts his stamp on a record like this by intentionally not putting his stamp on anything.

While there are a few moments of typical Damien Rice tropes (i.e. layered vocals, pianos, and strings), the album is noticeably missing the balancing vocals previously provided by Rice’s former partner Lisa Hannigan. The smaller number of songs helps to hide this, but Hannigan’s vocals were so much a part of “Damien Rice” the artist that it almost feels like Rice is “going solo” here for the first time in his career. That doesn’t make for a bad record, it’s just not quite the same – in the same way that Glen Hansard’s work sans Marketa Irglova lacks a certain something.

Finally, for such a well-liked and critically heralded artist, I must say that this album is not for everyone. In fact, much like the third act in a movie trilogy, it might be hard to come in here without deeply knowing parts one and two (O and 9 Crimes, respectively). Long time fans may feel a bit let down as the record starts, but will end the album filled up and hopeful… Hopeful that it won’t be another 8 years before we hear from Damien Rice again.