[Image courtesy of Canopy Hands]
While today’s world is at one of its most progressive points to date, humankind still has a lot to work on in terms of accepting everyone for who they are. Canopy Hands’ latest release, I Can’t Keep Doing This, was put out on June 1, 2019, and addresses issues surrounding mental health, gender, and sexuality. Taking on such a serious project meant that the band’s first full length album was written between 2017 and 2019, and features a refined version of their early sound.
Canopy Hands began around 2013, when its original members, Thomas Hickman, Christopher Scheu, Fisher Wilson, and Robert Johnson were finishing up high school. The group’s original sound was influenced by indie and progressive rock as they put out their first EP, GOLD in 2014.
When the band reached college, they were scattered amongst different cities. In Savannah, Georgia, Thomas wrote the band’s second EP, Whelm in 2016, working almost exclusively away from the rest of the group and getting to hone in on their production skills. In 2016, Jose Rangel also completed the lineup of Canopy Hands.
Their latest record, I Can’t Keep Doing This, brought Canopy Hands’ full lineup back together again.
The first track of I Can’t Keep Doing This is” Urgent!.” The track’s rub is what stands out most: Thanks to its unpredictable electronic beats, “Urgent!” really engages the brain, forcing listeners to actively interact with the music instead of listening passively. The emptiness under the electronic lines works well to emphasize the song’s soft, ambient vocals, which serve to soothe the rub to the perfect level. This track is amazingly experimental and endlessly interesting.
The transition into “IKB” is masterful. More mellowed out than “Urgent,” “IKB” has major R&B vibes that pacify the ears after the organized chaos present in the last track. Although the two share elements that allow them to fit on the same album, “IKB” brings an aesthetic to I Can’t Keep Doing This that is all its own. The vocals are smooth and jazzy, and the instrumentals pleasingly airy, filling the perfect amount of audio space.
“Dextro” isn’t my favorite song of I Can’t Keep Doing This, but I respect its vocals and composition. The electronic, swooping echoes and production of the vocal lines make “Dextro” feel like something that would be easy to dance to at a party, or a radio hit on a popular station. The vocal pitches are impressively perfect, but despite the obvious electronic production, none of the vocals feel overproduced or unnatural.
The lyrics of “Maybe I’m Neither” deal with gender and sexuality: “You can call me an outlier/But I’m not sold/Narrative told/Refuses to admit it and I’m tired/Can I even be honest with myself….” The phrasing is impressive in itself, but the genuine delivery of each line is what shines through the artistic skill to be the focus of “Maybe I’m Neither.” It is important to have songs like “Maybe I’m Neither” to continue helping the music industry (and everyone) understand how to respect and accept everyone: “They want to give me an interview/But they won’t use the pronouns I want ’em to.”
“Lo-Brow” tackles another crucial topic: Mental Health. “Now my mind doesn’t wander anymore/But that’s why we make the sacrifices/Cause I’d rather have my device than it be left to my own devices.” The repetition of this line in particular lends “Lo-Brow” a dance aesthetic, making it fun listening. The bassline of this track is simple, but funky and clear, providing extra depth to the instrumentals. This bassline only grows stronger as the song progresses into a calmer section, the vocals admitting that “You are my distraction/Living in the moment /Sober for the weekend….” The beginning of a discussion of a relationship fits well with the next three tracks.
Continuing on the theme that “Lo-Brow” left off with, “Ethereal Jumpcastle,” “Falls,” and “Our Love” all discuss relationships.
“Ethereal Jumpcastle” discusses a failed relationship and the regret and longing that comes with it: “I changed my mind about you/Ten days before I turned twenty-two/I changed my mind about you/You’re on your way now/I miss you angel//I wish that I could reach out/Its been all day now….” The vocals are subdued and light, matching the smooth accompanying piano line.
“Falls” focuses more on the importance of self-care at any point in relationships. The lyrics aren’t typical for a relationship-based song, but their uniqueness makes them stronger: “I wonder ’bout your day /And do you feel the same way?/If you’d hit my phone /I’d tell you all you want to know /Am I taking care or letting go?/Breaking ties and making strides/Gotta drink more water/The start of getting stronger/That’s my energy this time.” The backing track feels a lot like that of “Urgent!” with its rub against the lyrics, but this provides a groovy background for the song’s meaning.
“Our Love” rides the median between “Ethereal Jumpcastle” and “Falls” as it describes the struggles of balance between a relationship and ideal life “Dreaming of a world tour / Never stop the hustle, it’s all that I can hope for / I’ve been in a dark place /Finding out the hard way/ I’m afraid this feeling is a mainstay /Did I miss my chances, am I already too late? /Your heart is mine to break / It’s not that I want to /There ain’t no other way….” The connection to the themes in the other two tracks is a great touch. Despite this, the backing instrumentals aren’t as full in “Our Love,” which leaves it feeling a bit like it’s missing something when the lyrics aren’t the main focus of listening.
“Plum” is darker and fuller than the other tracks in the album, but it suits the title track’s lyrics: ” Leaving you would tear me in two, two /Setting sun, we’ve had all of our fun, fun/I can’t keep doing this….” The buzzing instrumentals give the song a staccato, rushing rhythm that serves to usher listeners into the final track of the album, “Luminaire.”
“Luminaire” begins with a twinkling melody that makes me think of a starry night sky. The track incorporates many of the themes of the album’s other songs, including mental health and relationships, as well as musical themes that give the track a sense of familiarity after listening to the rest of I Can’t Keep Doing This. One of my favorites of the album, “Luminaire” provides a solid ending to canopy Hands’ release with a steady, smooth bassline, fun horn tones, and smooth lyrical phrasing.
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