Ever since the MySpace boom, social media has been a bigger and bigger part of life for up and coming bands, and you can see this in their webpages. While looking up bands for New Music entries, I come across plenty of bands whose “About Me” sections are lessons in low-level myth-making. Sure, it’s entertaining (and it can certainly make the intro to reviews easier), but sometimes, the self-promotion can go overboard, and color the music a little too much.
Which makes a group that plays things close to the chest like Copperfox more intriguing. There’s no paragraphs of accomplishments, no sprawling narrative of music being a Lifelong Dream (TM), all they seem to want to say is “They’re from Portland. She sings, he plays”. Copperfox is the kind of group that lets the music talk for them.
Copperfox have the rather distinct and uncommon genre blend of indie rock and alt. country. The combination makes for music as dark and ethereal as the forests of Oregon; rhythm grounded in crisp drums and brittle clean guitar while twangy slide guitar creeps in and out of nowhere. All four of From the Den‘s tracks share a level of intricate songcraft, which only strengthens their wilderness appeal. Add in a mix that gives everything room to breathe (plus a little bit of reverb), and it makes for immersing music.
First track “James” is the most accessible of From the Den‘s four songs; the minor key chord progression, fuzzy bass, and somewhat blusey bridge make it a solid introduction to the EP. What really sends the whole thing home, though, is Lisa Garcia’s vocals. She follows the subtle rises and falls of the song from high and sorrowful on the chorus to low and rough at the bridge. All throughout the EP, Garcia and instrumentalist Rory Mohon play off each other with great chemistry.
Next song “Lover” veers the hardest towards country with its emphasis on acoustic and slide guitar. A somewhat beefed up ballad, the song takes off from Garcia’s passionate delivery and the rising drums on the chorus (the piano breakdown at the bridge is an unexpected delight as well). As if righting itself, the third song on the EP is the most “indie rock” song present. The acoustic guitar strumming of the verses gives way to driving electric guitar and steady drumming on a chorus that meditates around the line “You’ve got the best of me“, and the instrumental break is engaging. Some duos consciously limit their instrumentation–Copperfox is not one of them.
Six minute closer “Be Careful” goes for your normal Big Closer fair: it starts comparatively stripped down, then builds over a second half instrumental. The song’s built rather basically from drums, subtle bass, and guitar parts that drift in and out (much like Garcia). It’s a good idea, and the track doesn’t fail, but it does feel somewhat rudderless. The closing instrumental part with added piano is gorgeous, though.
The lyrics of From the Den are oblique enough to match the mystery of the music. There are plenty of “you”s and “me”s, but nothing’s ever spelled out. And, given the dark nature of these lyrics (“Be Careful” includes the line “Won’t think twice/Put a bullet in your eye”, and “James” has “James, you better clean your gun”), the ambiguity helps. Also worth noting is Garcia’s knack for stretching a few extra notes out of a melody to great effect. Her little accents strengthen already interesting vocals, especially on “Lovers” and “We Know”.
From the Den is definitely worth giving a listen. Like most EPs, it doesn’t give you a full range of what the band is capable of, but hints at different directions that they can expand upon. The songcraft is strong enough that each song stands on its own, and there’s no way to accuse any of them of sounding alike. It’s lush, texture alt country blended with indie, and great night music. You don’t hear one like this every day.