POZ Decade: Copeland - Beneath Medicine Tree

by Zack Zarrillo - Mar 19, 2013


We are incredibly excited to be launching our third Decade feature in celebration of Copeland's Beneath Medicine Tree, which is celebrating its ten year anniversary next week. Though the band has now come and gone, Beneath Medicine Tree is a record that has stood the test of time for listeners, viewers, and POZ. We have commentary on the album via team members Josh Hammond, Marc Gary Gray, and Brittany Oblak. Enjoy and reblog to let us know your thoughts on Beneath Medicine Tree ten years later!

Best song on Beneath Medicine Tree

To understand the significance of “Brightest,” the opening track of Copeland’s debut full length, Beneath Medicine Tree, you first have to grasp the depth and intensities of the concept of the album. Inspired heavily from the hospitalization of his girlfriend and the death of his grandmother, Aaron Marsh approached the album’s lyrics and songwriting from a confessional and extremely venerable position. Nothing is held back from the listener and every drop of emotion felt from Marsh ends up bleeding into the mix. 

“Brightest,” a song that comes in at just over two minutes, stands out as the most understated and softly spoken song on an album weighed down in heavy plots and heart wrenching scripts. It is this simplicity however that makes the song shine. Based over soft, flowing piano and calm, careful guitar the song’s lyrics express hindsight. Marsh looks back fondly at prior situation, explaining that he has let it go. He says softly and almost insecurely, “All I know is she warms my heart and knows what all my imperfections are” before revealing the great couplet on the album “and she said that I was the brightest little firefly in her jar.” 

I remember being 22 years old and hearing Marsh sing those words for the first time. In that moment everything changed. I can recall seeing my views and concepts of what love shift dramatically. I desperately wanted to be the brightest firefly in someone’s jar. That statement defined me. It changed me. More importantly it stuck with me for a decade. 

Unintentionally and from his own grief, Marsh managed to pen the most important two minutes of my life. I can only imagine the effect that it managed to have on his.Joshua Hammond (@endless_rambles) 

Legacy of Beneath Medicine Tree

I’m not suffering from writer’s block, I swear. However, I can’t seem to “sum up” the legacy of this album. I would posit that the legacy Beneath Medicine Tree ten years after its release (but you knew that already, right? Decade? Amiright?) is a slightly complex one. First of all, Copeland is a “Christian” band, and however you choose to view that, the label (limiting or unnecessary as it may be) can certainly have an effect on the way a band is viewed: see Exhibit A – mewithoutYou. 

Being one who is frustrated with such labels, I will choose to completely ignore this fact when attempting to place this album in its proper historical place and context. Here are two things that I know for sure: 1) when given the list of albums that would be highlighted in this Decade project, I did not bat an eyelash at this album. In other words, of COURSE this album needs to be highlighted. No brainer. 2) Nothing on this album sticks it permanently into its period in history. Let me expound. There are no badly placed screaming parts (no screaming parts at all, for that matter). The production is simple and understated. There are no rap interludes, no dance move music videos, nothing to pin the album to 2003. I hate to throw around the word timeless, but in this context, the album is timeless. And that’s definitely a good thing. 

At the end of the day, this album fills a nice gap between the late 90s emo bands (think Jets to Brazil, Hey Mercedes, etc.) and bands like Brand New and Fall Out Boy who thrived in the middle to later portions of the 2000s. Ultimately, Aaron Marsh solidified himself a place next to the great indie/emo songwriters of the last ten years, and if that’s the most I can say for someone, that’s still quite something. - Marc Gary Gray (@marcgarygray)  

How Beneath Medicine Tree changed the band’s future

With Beneath Medicine Tree kicking open the door on the bands career, Copeland would progress upward in their career, expanding on the momentum and buzz that the album would create. In 2004 they would release a cover album called Know Nothing Stays the Same, featuring tracks originally recorded by Billy Joel, Phil Collins and Stevie Wonder. The EP would transition the period between full lengths, bridging Beneath Medicine Tree with In Motion. It would however be their next album Eat, Sleep, Repeat, which would break the top 100 in the US charts that would send Copeland into the mainstream spotlight. It would however also serve as their final full length as a band. With a pair of releases consisting of revamped greatest hits (Dressed up & In Line) and a B-Sides release, the band announced it would be calling it quits in late 2009.

During his career Aaron Marsh would also work with artists like Stacy Clark and produce albums for bands like Anchor & Braille. Steven Laurenson would go on to join Lydia before joining forces again with Bryan Laurenson and Mindy White (of Lydia) to start a new project called States. However, none of this would have been managed if not for the release and support of Beneath Medicine TreeJoshua Hammond (@endless_rambles)

How Beneath Medicine Tree Holds up in 2013

Beneath Medicine Tree is a beautifully written, graceful album, and has aged just so since it’s release ten years ago.  Aaron Marsh, Copeland’s singer and primary songwriter, wrote this album in the face of his close grandmother’s death and the hospitalization of his girlfriend (who had lupus) with an ongoing medical theme. This left us with an album consisting of the best kind of art there is: something completely cathartic and intrapersonal that exposes all real vulnerability, and something done truly for oneself. Even though the “medical” theme is strongest, there are other songs pertaining to distance, love, and longing. Whether it be the opening track “Brightest” with its painfully affectionate chorus,  “Take Care”, the ode to devotion and assurance, or “California” the lengthier track for someone who is missed on the other side of the country, this album is nothing if not powerful. It may not be the peak of Copeland’s musicality, but it’s something that can’t be taught: raw, real, emotion.  And that is timeless. Brittany Oblak (@brittanyoblak) 

Was Copeland successful in following up Beneath Medicine Tree?

With each album that Copeland released the band saw more successful. In Motion would gather speed from the momentum from the buzz of Beneath Medicine Tree, but it would be Eat, Sleep, Repeat and You are My Sunshine that would serve as Copeland’s true success story. With both albums breaking the Top 100 charts (#90 and #45 respectively) the band would gain buzz before retiring. Joshua Hammond (@endless_rambles) 

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    I can listen to all the EDM in the world. I could find new styles of music and new artists. But nothing will ever touch...
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    If you’ve never listened to this album, you are seriously missing out. Love when truly perfect albums get the credit...
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  13. brittanyoblak reblogged this from propertyofzack and added:
    Featuring my first contribution to our new Decade feature! I adore this band and album.
  14. joseph4th reblogged this from propertyofzack and added:
    I can’t believe this album is going to be 10 years old. It’s hard for me to make a “top 5 favorite albums ever” list,...
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  16. chrisaho reblogged this from propertyofzack and added:
    One of my Top 3 albums
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