02 January 2012

11 of 11

11) Washed Out - “Within and Without”
Georgia native and a founding father of the “Chillwave” genre, Ernest Greene chose to defy those that said Chillwave was dead. Greene delivers an album that – in its entirety - is beautiful, ethereal and, yes, very chill. The minutia and rich layering make for a thoughtful record that will certainly keep Chillwave afloat for at least another year.

10) F*cked Up - “David Comes to Life”

Canadian punk rockers, F*ucked Up delivered one of this year’s most passionate albums with “David Comes to Life.” Gritty guitars, raw vocals and drums that are as punk as they come keep this compilation of 18 tracks rolling. Now, the album won’t be everyone’s cup o’ tea, but if you’re looking for some great, gettin’-rowdy music, “David Comes to Life” brings it and brings it big.

9) Nils Frahm - “ Felt”
The award for minimalist album of the year goes to Nils Frahm for his beautiful album, “Felt.” The title for the album came from the idea to cover the strings of the piano with felt to create a quite, natural piano sound that – when recorded – make the listener feel like they’re in the room, next to the piano while he’s playing. “Felt” is no frills, quite and calm. An all around instrumental masterpiece.

8) PJ Harvey - “Let England Shake”
Bizarre and wonderful are two words that can pretty much sum up “Let England Shake.” It’s easily one of the most creatively orchestrated albums of the year. Harvey delivers her best effort to date. A painstaking labor of love. An odd, beautiful work that is a true delight.

7) Fleet Foxes -“Helplessness Blues”
Not to be outdone by the Brits, Seattle indie rockers, Fleet Foxes, return with their second full-length and 2011’s folksy/indie treasure. Unlike typical Seattle weather, “Helplessness Blues” is bright, cheerful, warm and something you don’t want to end.

6) The Rapture - “In the Grace of Your Love”
If anyone laughs when they hear the term “dance punk,” take one listen to “In The Grace of Your Love” and you’ll see that it all makes sense. As the album title suggests, you can expect a spiritual performance from these New Yorkers. However, with this album, you probably won’t find yourself lifting your hands to the heavens in worship. Rather, you’ll be tapping your foot and bobbing your head without even thinking about it. The record is equal parts dance, electronica and punk and somehow, the band makes it all work tastefully, wonderfully and – dare I say – divinely?

5) James Blake - “James Blake”
British, dub-step wonder kid, James Blake surprised everyone with this year’s self-title record. At age 22, Blake dropped an album that has redefined the idea of dub-step and made skeptics into believers. Included in the tracks is the haunting cover of Feist’s song, “Limit to Your Love.” From start to finish, this album is one that everyone should definitely check out. One of the best vocal performances on an album this year.

4) Big K.R.I.T. - “Return of 4Eva”
Just when everybody thought that Dirty South Hip Hop had run its course, the likes of numbers four and three on this list jumped onto the scene and made massive waves…all with a thick, Southern drawl. Big K.R.I.T. arrived on the scene with his LP “Return of 4Eva,” releasing it free on his website. Suddenly everyone in the biz was knocking at his door asking him to produce them or collaborate with them. The album as a whole is a tasty blend of late 90’s Dirty South Rap, West Coast Hip Hop and traditional R&B. It’s 21 tracks of near perfection.

3) G-Side - “Island”
Like Big K.R.I.T., Hunstville, AL natives, G-Side seemingly came out of nowhere and delighted critics and listeners with “Island.” The duo perfectly blend synths and beats and serve up 14 tracks of southern-fried rap with a side of greens and cornbread. The album is certainly the best hip-hop from 2011. Roll Tide, y’all!

2) M 83 - “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”
French, electronic music mastermind, Anthony Gonzalez, undoubtedly has the Midas touch. His previous albums received much deserved acclaim. This time around, Gonzalez – inspired by The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness” – took it to 11 releasing an ambitious double LP. His reasoning was similar to Billy Cogran’s; if you have a lot of songs that you think are great and are proud of, why not just release them all? Do they have to flow together perfectly or make sense to be on the same album together? Not at all, Gonzalez reasoned. Some tracks are massive electronic masterpieces and others are more stripped down and acoustic. While the dynamic of the songs change frequently, they all seem to work perfectly with each other, telling a wonderful story and proving that creativity and boldness sometimes bring great things.

1) Bon Iver – “Bon Iver”

You don’t believe the hype, you say? You absolutely should. Love him or hate him, Justin Vernon delivered the best album of 2011. Bon Iver may not be for everyone. Some think it’s too sappy. Others don’t like the non-traditional song structure. I say, who cares what you think? If you give this album an objective listen you will hear a near-perfect compilation of tracks that were crafted with equal parts musical brilliance and a true love for art. Grammy nods and critical praise are all deserved. This album will be hard to top in years to come. Not much else can be said.

*Honorable Mentions: Frank Ocean - “Nostalgia,” Das Racist – “Relax,” - Feist – “Metals,” Adele – “21,” A Winged Victory for the Sullen – “S/T”

09 July 2011


Country legend, Chet Atkins, was quoted, "Once you become predictable, no one's interested anymore." And predictability could have certainly been the case for Justin Vernon's latest self-titled release, Bon Iver. Thankfully, Vernon aspired to take a different route than he did on his critically acclaimed first album, "For Emma, Forever Ago." His intentional departure from the minimalist, stripped-down sound of "For Emma..." was mostly unexpected and - at the same time - entirely welcomed.

In contrast to "For Emma..." the new release embraces new, more synthetic sounds, glossy production and the addition of several new musicians. The result is 10 tracks, perfectly flowing in a journey across states and countries (as are indicated by his album titles), over mountains and valleys, through emotional highs and low. And the result is nothing short of transcendent.

While many fans were hoping (or expecting) an album similar to the first, Bon Iver has once again melted the hearts of listeners and critics alike. Even the downers over at Pitchfork gave the record one of the highest ratings ever.

Check out the video above for his unprecedented version of Holocene on Jimmy Fallon and if you care to share your thoughts on the record, I'd love to chat.

14 June 2011

The Lost and the Captor

With the political and social climate mostly centering around The Arab Spring, oil prices, nationwide tornadoes and other natural disasters, little is said or heard about the state of education in America. Thankfully Davis Guggenheim (who brought us such insightful documentaries as An Inconvenient Truth and It Might Get Loud) took a deeper look into the flawed system of public schools and the unions and how - for decades - this system has set children in public school systems up for ultimate failure.

The 2010 documentary narrated by Guggenheim was received with much praise as well as some criticism. Lauded openly as the voice for many parents with children in the public system, the film covers the history of the public school system and the teacher's unions to whom it is essentially bound. It's stated frequently that tenure protects teachers that ultimately don't care about students progress and reminding the viewer that teachers that consistently perform well are still only compensated poorly relative to their performance.

Most criticism, however, came in the form of jeers from within the system citing that the film neglected to point out the tremendous lack of funds that schools receive each year (whether federally or on the state level).

On the (terribly overlook and often discounted) upside, the film follows a few leaders who've created charter (aka lottery) schools in which they can actually say "No Child Left Behind," a term coined by George W. Bush and has ultimately failed in a major way. These schools pay the utmost attention to students and compensate teachers appropriately. The crux, however, is that these schools are always at capacity, leaving potential students at the hand of an annual lottery drawing to see if they get in (most lotteries can only accept 10-20% of applicants).

The film, is engaging, informed, pointed, and extremely well produced and is worth the 111 minute run time. Check it out. And if you have already, post your feedback.

10 May 2011

It's Been A While

Who knew a 5-month hiatus was just what I needed? Not I. But alas, there's so much I could spend time ranting about, however, I would like to simply share some musical ideas I've been working on over the last several months. It's nothing fancy or even complete, but something I've been looking to share. Download and enjoy (or don't if that's not your thing).

The first track is much brighter while the second track is an attempt at the darker side of things:

Song B by The_Copeland

Organ1 by The_Copeland

22 January 2011

The Land of No Return

The next film in discussion is Black Swan. Directed by Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler), this film is the epitome of beauty and tension. Starting with the beautiful cast of Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and the driving force of the film, Vincent Cassel, and adding to that the beauty of Aronofsky's direction.

The story follows the timid perfectionist, Nina Sayers (Portman), in her quest to be the leading role in the annual production of the ballet, Swan Lake. Her aspiration to play the graceful white swan as well as the evil black swan is her ultimate goal. And with pressure from her mother (Barbara Hershey) and her director/choreographer (Cassel), Sayers performance of the rolls becomes perfect, all the while her life and her psyche begin to quickly and unpredictably unravel. However, the plot builds slowly and perfectly to a crescendo at which point the film ends.

This is another film that is worth the accolades and the hype. Each cast member delivers a near-perfect performance and Aronofsky's work behind the camera captures those performances wonderfully. If you have a light heart, however, you might want to approach this film with heavy caution. It is intense, dark and eerie in so many fantastic ways.

Returning Empty Handed

In the spirit of getting back on the saddle with the blog, it was decided to cover a series of recently released films. Starting with the Coen brothers' remake of the John Wayne classic, True Grit.

Now, how can one remake a John Wayne film and really nail it? Well, start with a cast or cinematic rockstars including Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and the brilliant newbie, Hailee Steinfeld. And throw in some expected and highly-enjoyable Coen whimsy and there you have it.

The film - set in the old south - provided the perfect backdrop for the story about a young girl seeking vindication for her father's murder and enlisting the help of the not-by-the-books US Marshall, Rooster Cogburn (Bridges). And the on-screen dynamic among each of the characters was nothing short of top tier.

To be brief, the film certainly deserves its accolade as the number one movie in America for weeks on end as well as its Golden Globe and Oscar awards/nods. This is one to see on the big screen, as well, if only for the sound of old rifles firing and bullets ricocheting all around.

18 December 2010

It's OK To Say That You Love Me

Here we are. Yes, you and me. Me and you. The end of 2010 and with it brings this, the 500th blog post of The Copeland. And what better way to celebrate than with an end of the year list. The list (by way of reality) is a fair blend of true objectivity and un-adulterated subjectivity*.

And so here are the top albums of 2010 (in no particular order):

The National: High Violet

Seemingly the most focused effort to date for the 5 (plus) piece from Brooklyn by way of Cincinnati. This album is wonderfully dark and haunting with perfect dashes of whimsy and beauty. Each of the 11 tracks flow seamlessly into each other and creates comprehensive and utterly fantastic album.

Robyn: Body Talk
This series of albums came at a time when pop music is only defined by what Ke$ha and Katy Perry-Brand are putting into the top 40 (or at least what Dr. Luke is writing for them). So, it's nice to see Swedish import, Robyn, step into the dance/pop light stateside. She creates an undeniably perfect blend or pop, dance and electronica with a maturity that every other dance-pop diva could only hope for. And even though her following is stereotypically gay men and single women, no one can keep themselves from getting sucked in when listening to any of the Body Talk albums.

Sleigh Bells: Treats
This Brookly duo delivers "Treats," a gritty, poppy, funky, rock album that would get any high school football team hyped up in the locker room before the big game. It's speaker-busting beats with nasty guitar riffs paired with Singer, Alexis Krauss's sultry voice make for - although fairly homogeneous - an album that is so different and stands out so much more than almost any other record this year.

The Black Keys - Brothers
Newly Nashville transplants, The Black Keys, keep creating great music. And "Brothers" is no exception. It's soulful, tasteful and loaded with riffs and grooves that will keep you hitting repeat. They guys do so a great job of taking a vintage rock style and keeping it fresh and modern. This is a record you must purchase.

Jónsi - Go

The Sigur Rós frontman stepped away from the band in 2010 and pieced together his first solo record simply titled "Go." What was years in the making came together as what may be the most beautiful record to have been released in the past few years. The album - anchored by two blockbuster U.S. tours and one world tour - is layered with inspiring compositions, rich textures and visual aspects (both art and video) to match. Jónsi took the definition of art literally with this project. And it's result leaves you wholly in awe.

Hammock: Chasing After Shadows...Living with the Ghosts
Nashville duo and former songwriting masters in the Christian music industry have been writing and releasing music under the moniker of Hammock for several years now. Like many others on this list, Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson have composed easily their best material to date. The album received rave reviews from across the globe and helped put Nashville on the ambient/instrumental world's map. The album requires a lot of patience from the listener, but all time committed to listening is well worth it. This is definitely not a 'background music' ambient record. You'll want to listen to every track with and attentive ear. And for that, your ears will most certainly be blessed.

Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
The darlings of indie rock have done it again. "The Suburbs" was one of the most anticipated records of the year and it did not disappoint. It simply rocks in the most creative of ways. There's ample of amounts of fascinating minutia on the record that it will take many spins to really understand the brilliance that is Arcade Fire.

Rick Ross: Teflon Don
Hip hop made the list and, no, it's not Kanye West (who you will not see on this list). Mississippi-born William Leonard Roberts II has flown mostly under the mainstream hip-hop radar. But the release of "Teflon Don" certainly pushed Ross into the limelight as well as many "Best Of" lists this year. And the praise is not without merit. Ross' creativity in music and truly thuggish flows make this an album any rap alum will appreciate and and give mad respect.

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
This is possibly the oddest selection for the list, but it's undeniably one of the best of the year. The record is definitely different, but is thoughtful and beautiful and lacks any hint of pretension. It takes a while to understand and appreciate this one, but it's one that should - without a doubt - be heard.

Cee Lo: The Lady Killer
Finally, we have Cee Lo Green. One half of the Gnarls Barkley duo drops the funk and soul that will keep you entertained for quite some time. And for those that think his eyebrow-raising single, "F*ck you" was simply a ploy to get noticed, make no mistake that that single and every other track on the record is as close to perfect as you'll find. Green even went as far as daringly covering Band of Horses single, "No One's Gonna Love You" and absolutely killing it. As with all of his projects, Cee Lo created a masterpiece that people will be hearing everywhere for years to come.

Honorable Mention - Eminem: Recovery
While Em is still making fantastic records, he's not really doing much in terms of breaking musical ground. But a job well done, nonetheless.

*Footnote: In my unabashed subjectivity, I kept a few records off this list that many other lists not only included, but gave (in my opinion) way too much praise. Those records include the ego-centric album from Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Wavves: King of the Beach, Of Montreal: False Priest, MGMT: Congratulations nor M.I.A.: /\/\/\Y/\ (whatever that is)

I'd love to see your picks and hear feedback about mine.

04 December 2010

God Can Be Funny

We live in a time where music and art are consistently moving away from grandeur and fluff to a place of perfect simplicity and - for the most part - lack of ego. This, however, does not seem to be the case for alt-rock pretty boys, 30 Seconds to Mars, whose newest video for their single, "Hurricane" is one of the most absurd attempts at combining art and music period. 

There are some that - like The Examiner -  tend to disagree with that sentiment, going so far as actually appreciating that the video (which some are calling a film) "is deeply rich in symbols and is divided into three acts “Birth, Life and Death”

While others like the sharp-tongued and highly-satirical folks over at Hipster Runoff pose the question, "Is the new Jared Leto video the 'biggest piece of poop' ever created as 'art' in the history of the world?" and stating, " Feel really bad 4 the band for spending so much time making such a big piece of poop. Has 2 be embarrassing. Feels like some1 shoulda told them "damn bros... this shit looks kinda ghey.'"

And above all, it appears that band is feeding off of the censorship that is being imposed on the film for its sexually graphic imagery. Leto recently - in some form of rebellion? - lashed out at MTV on his blog by posting an explicit photo that MTV had forced to be censored. But it's unclear why the band is upset over cable tv channels censoring what would essentially add up to an R or NC17 rating if this were actually a film. Maybe it's part of their maniacal plan along along?

Anyway, the video is full of Leto's ego (in the form of him running around shirtless and getting pretty freaky with beautiful women) and a completely sophomoric story line. Check it out for yourself and let the comments fly.