In the years since 2006’s Every Waking Moment, Citizen Cope (née Clarence Greenwood) has become the musical equivalent of Joss Whedon, each trading the creativity of their younger artistry for bloated audience pleasers. Cope’s newest release, One Lovely Day, like Whedon’s summer-blockbuster The Avengers, listens like an attempt to meet expectations, never attempting to push his abilities or the prevailing tastes of an already devoted fan base.
In 2002, Cope soaked his audience with a flood of emotions on “Sideways” (recorded with Carlos Santana for his album, Shaman), and ten years later the tides of romantic adulation on “A Wonder” build from his established, charming writing aesthetic rather than some tangible encounter. “One Lovely Day”, the title track and a single from the Battleship soundtrack, seems like fodder for classroom/cubicle-induced beachside day dreaming, the type typically scored by the myriad of adult-contemporary troubadours like Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson. Each track (especially album closer “Summertime”) serves perfectly as filler for adolescent mixtapes, but generally lacks the character depth of his early work (e.g. “Mandy”, “200,000”).
What the early tracks lack in substance is partially redeemed mid-album on “Peace River”. Complete with a flute, shuffling jazz snare drum, and distorted electric guitar, the sonically rich track is also a social commentary told through the guise of a stream-of-consciousness third person narrative. This is a character that has fulfilled all his/her desires, but still couldn’t put out the fire of temptation, until a humble visit to the peace river.
Cope is at his best when he’s the most transparently sentimental. The tones of a music box ring clear before the muffled vocalist reminisces about society’s lost innocence on “Back Then”. The track’s underlying piano chords are emphasized on “Southern Nights”, which hearkens back to Duane Allman’s acoustic southern rock.
Perhaps the expectations for One Lovely Day were set too high, as Cope has already spent a decade pouring his unbounded heart into his mellow blues rock. But, to get back to the Whedon reference, is it OK to settle for Dollhouse instead of pushing for a second season of Firefly?
Essential Tracks: “Peace River”