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VCV: Copeland – “I’m A Sucker For A Kind Word”

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The cynical among us will suggest there are no new ideas under the sun, that it's all been done before and there's nothing worth tuning in to.  Even if that wasn't utter nonsense it would still be bullshit.  The journey can be as important and interesting as the eventual destination and the infinite differences in our DNA guarantee we'll take different roads to those same places.

I was listening to Copeland's "I'm A Sucker For A Kind Word" this afternoon it just got all over me.  I had this stream-of-conscious flood of thoughts and I was paralyzed because they were all hitting me while I was working on some tasks for the day job.  I wasn't in a position to stop what I was doing and start fleshing the ideas out, but I didn't want to lose any of those flickerings. So I did something I rarely do, but have often preached to my wife when she's stuck writing a paper for one of her college courses: write first, think later.  I threw sentence structure and punctuation out the window and started banging out fragments and reference points in a burst of furious activity. 

That was a few hours ago and I'm now playing a game of connect the dots.  As I piece the clues I left for myself together, I find I still agree with most of those quick-hitting, random thoughts and I still can't get "Kind Word" out of my head.

This next comparison may only make sense to me, but I got to thinking about the idea of avant garde music and different approaches to it.  Animal Collective recklessly throws sound to the wind, allowing them to bang and collide with each other in unusual, surprising and sometimes thrilling ways, giving birth a genre sometimes referred to as noise rock.  It's a perfectly valid form of expression and while it's not always for me, I sometimes find it a compelling mess to sort through.

No one who listens to "Kind Word" is going to hear avant garde, but there is a flair of the unconventional in the way it's structured.  Copeland gathered an array of ideas and musical styles but rather than cramming them together in a dense wall-of-sound or allowing them to randomly bump against each other, they carefully dug the banks of the river and channeled those sounds, forcing them to work together and flow together downstream within the context and confines of a pop song.

It does so many things so well but its greatest accomplishment is remaining a pop song.  It is a challenging composition without an obvious chorus or melody yet it never sounds challenging or like it is daring to impress us.  All it wants to do is please us.  Jason Falkner and Brendan Benson keep trying to write and record this song.  I love both of them but I can almost imagine them having the Brian Wilson breakdown moment after listening to Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

"Kind Word" combines weepy, country pop melded with Beatle-esque harmonies and impossibly beautiful, aching vocals and tart, sinister guitars that warn and snarl and the clouds above break apart and the sun of sweet pop shines briefly like a breath of fresh air between the differing movements of this symphonic pop.  Not bad in just four minutes.

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About Josh Hathaway