Modern Nature: Annual (Bella Union) Review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Fall 2001 - Grandaddy


Bella Union

Jun 15, 2020 Fall 2001 - Grandaddy Bookmark and Share

Jack Cooper continues to explore the path he started down with last year’s Nature EP. Including the improvisational experiment of Cycles released this March on Bandcamp, Cooper has been particularly prolific since launching his latest endeavor, Modern Nature. Annual comes as a 20-minute mini-album less than a year after the fully formed and undeservedly overlooked How to Live full-length. Cooper is no stranger to line-up changes with only one other member (Jeff Tobias) on board from last year’s recording.

As its name implies, Annual is a song cycle dedicated to Cooper’s notes kept on each of the four seasons. There are four primary songs linked by brief and primarily instrumental passages. Interestingly, the opening “Dawn”—with its thrumming guitar, harmonic pings, and bow drawn on double bass—links musically to the closing track “Wynter.” “Dawn” is the sound of winter losing its grip as the album rotates to spring. It also recalls the mournful cello of the opening of How to Live in setting the stage for what is to come.

On an initial run through of the album, BEAK>’s Will Young’s keyboard and synth contributions are notably absent. The press materials describe Young as “sitting this one out,” but who knows. While much of How to Live’s magic relied on the dropping in and out of different instruments from track to track, Annual becomes more about the shadings of continual interplay between Cooper’s guitar and softly sung vocals, Tobias’ horn work, and newcomer Jim Wallis’ deft percussion. Coupled with Cooper’s particularly poetic lyrics (which are admittedly hard to decipher in the mix) the album mesmerizes after repeated plays.

Annual works as a continual and subtly shifting run through of the seasons. The album leans much more to a jazz influenced trance than anything remotely in the rock vein. Cooper’s lyrics are well worth the effort to pick out for their quality as well as providing a way to distinguish what season you are in. “White blossom, gorse bursting/From winter to golden” definitely invokes spring as well as Cooper’s command to “Rise O horizon” on “Flourish.” Humans intrude on the summer of “Halo” and Cooper turns over vocal duties to the beautifully voiced Kayla Cohen of Itasca for the autumnal “Harvest.” As with an actual change of seasons, bits and pieces of one track may appear in another like a last gasp of autumn’s crispness before plunging into endless frigid days.

Cooper clearly holds tight to his ideas and the seriousness of producing works of quality shines through like a beam between the leaves. As fluid as Annual appears, it is clear that as much care went into it as producing a longer work. No doubt his next move will be just as fascinating if you allow that following his muse will likely not result in the same work you last adored. Though Cooper has been at the music game for a while, his sense of interest in Modern Nature is tangible and it’s exciting to predict that his best work may still be ahead of him. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10


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