Copeland, live at Irving Plaza, NYC, Oct. 5 2005
Copeland (it’s a band, not a person) played an energetic opening set at the eagerly anticipated Bob Mould concert at Irving Plaza last night in New York City. Copeland is a tight quartet with a wall-of-sound two-guitar attack – except for a couple of songs where lead singer and rhythm guitarist Aaron Marsh switches to Rhodes piano – that charges and thrums through your whole body, especially out of Irving Plaza’s superior sound system.
Marsh has the look of a shoegazer but the voice of an angel. His soaring tenor, which frequently sails into an ethereal but assured falsetto, is the most remarkable thing about the band. Sounding at times like a less angst-ridden Thom Yorke, Marsh also can evoke the very young Roger Daltry. And when bassist James Likeness chimes in with his crystalline backing vocals, the harmonies and vocal quality bring to mind, just a tiny bit, Roger McGuinn and the Byrds. Yet the band’s attitude and sensibility are youthful and thoroughly modern.
Their anthemic songs could use a little more variety; their set steps up to a higher level at the end when they play their best two songs, “No One Really Wins” and “Love Is A Fast Song.” Those two show Copeland’s real potential to be a pop-rock powerhouse. Their ability to win over the Bob Mould crowd in spite of playing a very different kind of music was also an excellent sign.
Mould and his amazing band, incidentally, kicked butt. Watch and listen, punk-rock kiddies: that’s how it’s done. (I hadn’t seen him since 1984, when Husker Du opened for REM at Harvard!)
Amelia’s Dream, Unravel
After a long hiatus, Amelia’s Dream is back with their third full-length CD. Recording Unravel live in the studio (vocals and keyboards were overdubbed) drew lively, powerful performances from the musicians, and the band’s songwriters, Amelia Gewirtz and Harold Stephan, have a knack for catchy, simple melodies; the best of their songs, like the contemplative “Blue Sky,” the rocking “Covered Up The Sun,” the celestial “Save Me” and the Nirvana-inspired “Only On The Inside,” have real staying power after a couple of listens.
The sound is a mix of raw pop and emo. Gewirtz’s voice resembles Sarah McLachlan’s but her singing is edgier; the “dark side” of this band may be its most appealing aspect, in fact. There’s even a bit of Pink Floyd in the crunchy minor-key attack of “Only On The Inside.” But their lyrical elements are strong too.
The band’s melodic habits can get somewhat repetitious; the CD could have done with a few fewer songs. Their 9-11 tribute, for example, could have stayed in the lyrics-notebook. But overall this album is a mature, emotionally powerful effort from a talented team whose past work has not surprisingly earned many TV and film placements.
Available here at CD Baby.
Anny’s press materials describe her music as “ground breaking [sp] approachable mood music.” I don’t know why everyone thinks they have to be promoted as ground-breaking. 99.9% of the time it’s just hype, and anyway, breaking new ground is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for music to be good.
Anny is not blazing any trails. But her best songs comfortably merge two time-honored grooves: 1990s ectophile’s delight, and bygone happy-pop in the vein of Petula Clark and Abba. Taken in this spirit, they’re very enjoyable. The opening track, “White Lipstick Girl,” epitomizes this recipe: after the verse trickles by with vaguely mystical preciousness (“sugar plum fairies / dance in her eyes”), the chorus charges in with strongly belted, doubled vocals. “Home” follows a mellower version of the same pattern, with rich harmonies elevating the understated chorus to a grand style.
“I Want To Break Free” is a gorgeously arranged ballad with a delicious little pop melody, but it’s dragged down, to a degree, by some awkward, prosy lyrics. The same problem crops up in “Here You Are,” although the organ-drenched groove and Abba-esque harmonies on the chorus are hard to resist. And the artist’s most characteristic pattern returns with “Gonna Get Mine,” where a fluid, octave-jumping and breathily delivered verse leads into a stately declarative chorus.
I like her quietly soulful version of the Hall & Oates chestnut “Every Time You Go Away,” too. But after that the album sags a bit. Even “Purple God,” a song about a vibrator, isn’t as much fun as it should be. The last track, “End of the Road,” is worth a listen for its whooshing soundscape, but it doesn’t have much of a chorus and Anny gives in – as she does in a few other places – too much to a tendency to ape Tori Amos’s vocal mannerisms.
Bottom line: I liked two thirds of this album, which is a lot. Well-structured, original songs with solid, memorable choruses are quite difficult to write, and there are a number of them here. You can feel good about buying Anny’s music, too, because you’ll be supporting someone who works as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused children. Talk about your real heroes of society.
Available here at CD Baby.