Copeland Week: Revisiting In Motion 


This piece is part two of what I’m calling “Copeland Week,” a look back at Copeland’s discography in preparation for the release of Ixora on November 24. Currently, I’m researching the narrativity of popular music, so I’m letting a lot of that line of thinking bleed into these blogs. 

In Motion is a more than appropriate title for Copeland’s second album. Everything about the record is just kinetic—emotionally and physically. In comparison to Beneath Medicine Tree, In Motion just feels more alive—it’s more immediate, better produced, and perhaps even more emotionally charged than its predecessor.

And album opener “No One Really Wins” encapsulates all of this in one exceptional pop-rock tune. In comparison to Medicine Tree’s opener, “Brightest,” “No One Really Wins” is a complete turn-around, with an absolutely menacing guitar showing more teeth than any Copeland song ever has. But the song is still distinctly Copeland, rising from an almost garage rock verse into a pristine, clear, and rhythmic chorus of “it’s a fight between my heart and mind, no one really wins this time.” If In Motion is a continuation of the story began by Medicine Tree, then it’s clear that the very narrator who previously broke out of his cycle of regret and sadness after a recent loss is once again in the throes of a new entanglement—and posed with yet another dilemma that everyone encounters as they come of age: the choice between what is smart and what is true to oneself. The album, taken as a whole, seems to ponder this choice over the course of its ten songs, the angry frustration of “No One Really Wins” providing the backbone for the following onslaught of debate, characterized by desperation, exasperation, and eventual clarity.

This theme of choice is most clearly carried out in track two, “Choose The One Who Loves You More,” a groovy track in which the narrator is preoccupied with a decision they must make—“rain, rain, rain on my mind.” At the end of the song, Marsh repeats, as if the narrator is speaking to himself, planning ahead for when someone discovers his “secret life,” “when they come knocking on your heart’s door/choose the one who loves you more.” The narrator is thinking vehemently about his situation, breaking down every possible outcome of his dilemma, with guest vocalists chiming in to signify interjecting thoughts.

And here we have the major flaw of In Motion’s protagonist. He’s stuck in his head, he can’t stop deconstructing his situations, no mater how blissful, filled with love, difficult, or simple they may be. And because of this, he’s restless—he tosses and turns in “Sleep” over mellow, yet jaunty keys and distant sounding, loose but constant guitar. The song only has two lines that aren’t in question form: “I wanna see your hairline and cheekbones/your red lips on your cell phone.” The narrator knows what he wants, but consistently talks himself out of the possibility, questioning to death the will of his romantic interest. Marsh’s melodic “ahh’s” here are exasperated and exhausted—as if the half-dreaming narrator in the song is yelling out in frustration but finds himself muffled by the power of sleep.

After this tendency to overthink begins to actively impede on the narrator’s love life, as exemplified by the pleading “Don’t Slow Down,” which thrives on contradictions (“you move way too fast/but don’t slow down”), In Motion approaches its climactic moment. Like Beneath Medicine Tree’s one-two punch of “When Paula Sparks” and “California,” In Motion’s major thematic summit comes in the form of two songs—“Love Is A Fast Song” and “You Have My Attention.” The former returns to the sinister, frustrated sound of “No One Really Wins,” but escapes it in it’s cathartic chorus—Marsh’s “whoa’s” leading the way as the drums and guitars alternate between a steady, full rising sound and a propulsive chugging. “My heart is in motion,” Marsh sings forcefully—here, the focus has shifted from thinking to feeling. This shift is apparent in the following, euphoric “You Have My Attention,” in which the reverie of layered “ooh’s” and acoustic strumming is broken as the tempo increases and multiple, sweeping guitars build up and up and Marsh yells, “You have my attention.” Finally, the narrator has escaped his head, and in the “fight between my heart and mind,” the heart, in this moment, reigns supreme.

The succeeding songs, “You Love To Sing,” and “Hold Nothing Back,” sound unburdened compared to the earlier songs on the record, more sweeping or smiling and less crunching or teeth grinding overall. “Hold Nothing Back” is somber but self-assured—perhaps this love has ended or is in trouble, but the narrator has grown to understand what is important to him. He need no longer to exclaim it from the rooftops—all of the frustration and all of the restless dreams lead to a simple way of life, a sober affirmation: “if you fall in love/fall in love and hold nothing back.”

In Motion is the most transitional album in Copeland’s catalog, combining the band’s purgative pop-rock tendencies with a more reserved, atmospheric, and textured sound that would be further explored in subsequent records. In Motion is the best possible combination of the two sides of Copeland—a record that must have sat on a precarious peak of anticipation at the time of its release in 2005, a signal of true brilliance to come.

Copeland’s first album since 2008, Ixora, comes out November 24. iTunes pre-order.

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