Copeland broke up in 2008, the same year melodic indie bands like Fleet Foxes were just getting their start. Had they stayed together through the early 2010s, I have little doubt they would have been welcomed by the modern hipster-indie wave with open arms. As far back as 2003, Copeland put out music filled with soft-spoken vocals, dreamy melodies and the occasional falsetto common modern indie music. Six years later, the band is back from what turned out to be a hiatus with their best and most mature album yet, Ixora. They haven’t completely reinvented their sound; they perfected it.
For the most part, Ixora trades Copeland’s indie-rock vibe for something softer and more melancholy. Several of the tracks include string sections rather than guitar chords to help create a deeper, more layered sound. Uncommon instruments, like the beautiful breathy saxophone in “world Turn” and a host of instruments on the closing track, “In Her Arms You Will Never Starve,” make an appearance, adding twists to every new layer. The strings at the end make the closing particularly poignant.
Even during its most optimistic moments, the tone on Ixora is grey at its brightest. “Like a Lie” shines joy by relation but is almost overshadowed by doubt and inadequacy in the lyrics (“How could I ever love you more? / How could I ever keep you here? / I can only make this worse / I can only grasp for more”). Similar lyrical themes are found on every track. One of the few exceptions comes from “In Her Arms You Will Never Starve” where hope is offered from the perspective of a lover’s protective arms.
Musically, songs like “Erase” have a touch of Sigur Rós’ Untitled in the keys, falsetto and overall atmosphere. Lyrically, “Erase” is one of the more somber cuts. The pace is picked up on the following track (“Lavender”) where electronic beats and synthesizers give the song an energetic burst of movement to offset the dreary mood. Like many tracks on Ixora, “Lavender” carries a dream-like vibe, which fits with the song’s lyrical theme of sleep.
The dreamy melodies are put to much stronger use in “Like a Lie.” The song takes a while to fully grab your attention, but by the time the chorus hits, listeners are hooked. A personal favorite is the gorgeously content “Ordinary,” a song about a normal man’s life. He wakes up late, works all day, comes home to kiss his wife and repeats the process as he grows old. But, for a change, such an “ordinary” life isn’t seen as something negative. There is a beauty in familiar simplicity, and the song captures it perfectly.
Both of the album’s closing tracks (“World Turn,” “In Her Arms You Never Starve”) put a smooth close to the album. While some fans may be disappointed by the lack of energy on Ixora, especially compared to Copeland’s older material, most listeners will be more than satisfied by this stage of the band’s sound at this point in their careers: goodbye.