Music Review: Indie Round-Up for Nov. 16 2006 – Copeland, Wolfkin, Jason Vigil

Copeland, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Copeland‘s third CD is a sharp turn towards the brooding sound of Radiohead. On first listen it seems self-conscious, as if the band had deliberately set out to make an Important Record. Aaron Marsh’s distinctive tenor is as full of passion as ever, but individually the songs (with a few partial exceptions, like “Control Freak”) aren’t melodically memorable. The intention seems to be more to make an album-length statement, almost a concept composition, and in this the CD succeeds, with numerous interesting twists, lush and sometimes unusual instrumentation, and a bit of rhythmic experimentation. I liked it very much as a whole. Fans of the band’s earlier, harder, more hooky rock are, understandably, having a variety of reactions.

Is Eat, Sleep, Repeat really an Important Record? In the sense that no one else is filling the void Radiohead left when they went deeply experimental, I’d say yes. Certainly Copeland could end up an important band. On the other hand, with the major labels no longer in the business of putting out innovative rock, what gets seared into the musical consciousness of new generations is up to the tastes and the clout of countless smaller labels and their use of new methods to promote and distribute their music. Signed to The Militia Group, Copeland is certainly positioned well. But only time will tell.

Wolfkin, Brand New Pants

If you think Scandinavian pop is all shiny-happy Ace of Base stuff, this Danish band will show you otherwise. Wolfkin‘s debut CD uses plenty of synthesizer sounds along with guitar, bass and drums, but it’s in the service of a smart vision. They filter elements of rock, pop and dance music into a strong, dark modern brew. Sung in English, the music is creative, fun, and sometimes funny, but the lyrics are often visceral and grim: “The Devil knit the shirts we’re in we choose to call it skin/That shrunken little thing you call your heart.” At the same time, being not-quite native English speakers, their syntax makes for interesting verbal curiosities: “When you walk barefoot through the room/I instantaneously enter my bloom like deliberately.” They run a bit low on creative steam on the second half of the CD, where playfulness gives way to a certain sameness, but overall the disc makes a musical statement that, after several listens, may worm its way into your own shrunken little heart.

Jason Vigil, Heart Gone Sober

Jason Vigil’s hybrid of anthemic alt-rock and heartland howling seems at first to have too much bluster, but by the end of the CD it has earned its drama. Though Vigil and his band are very good at sustaining moods (and playing their instruments), many of the lyrics are just strings of relationship homilies set to run-of-the-mill melodies. Yet at his best, as in “So Tell me,” Vigil evokes the gravelly passion of an Ed Kowalczyk.

At other times he sings breathily (as in “Hurts To Be Without”), or pronounces things strangely (as in “Safety’s Gone,” where you have to look at the lyrics to know that he’s singing “I don’t want to be down” and not “I don’t want to be dead”), for cheap effect. But then comes the icepick-powerful “Looking in the Sun” and the unique bolt of lightning “Come To Me,” and it all seems worth it.

When all is said and done, this CD is a pleasure to listen to, but, hook-wise, after three listens, nothing has stuck in my head. Your mileage may vary; it’s worth a try because it’s good stuff in many ways. Extended clips can be heard here.