This was bound to happen eventually, especially considering that Man Overboard don’t seem to be doing a great deal to show exactly how they’ve ended their hiatus lately. On top of that though, Nik Bruzzese breaking out with a solo project of his own does make sense; his Man Overboard co-vocalist Zac Eisenstein has been releasing his solo music under the Bright Green moniker for a few years now, and while he’s arguably a more recognisable presence within that band’s dynamic, there’s still enough there to justify Bruzzese breaking out on his own. After all, pop-punk is no stranger to having its purveyors dip into more emotionally bare acoustic territory, and the immediate impressions of Casa Loma would suggest that this is more of the same. It doesn’t tend to be bad, mind, but it can be predictable, and given that Man Overboard effectively represent the textbook definition on 2010s pop-punk, going down this route was anticipated sooner rather than later.
That becomes especially true when This Is Coping occupies a very similar mould to a lot of solo projects like this, where the softer, more vulnerable bent is brought to the fore against a floaty indie-rock backdrop in a way that’s pleasant but not too vital. It’s the sort of thing that can immediately be discerned as a side-project, and on that merit, this isn’t bad at all. As a more personal vehicle for Bruzzese, Casa Loma does feel as though it ticks all the right boxes in a suitable manner, but it’s also not enormously stimulating at the same time, beyond how the swells of emotions do hit. That’s not exactly unheard of in releases like this, but when This Is Coping is demonstrably not swinging for the fences, it does bring into question how long-lasting an EP like this is, or how far beyond being a personal project it can actually reach.
That said, as a personal project, it’s easy to get the sense that This Is Coping comes from a place of real intent for Bruzzese, and while not all that visceral, the swelling heart within it compensates for how small and confined it can be. Here, Bruzzese contemplates the idea of death, inspired by the passing of his friend and former Transit guitarist Tim Landers, as he examines the sense of isolation from different perspectives such an event can bring on All Alone Again and Famaglia, as well as how it’s effected him personally, as he buys the house he grew up with as a means of connecting with his late father on Travelers. It can be poignant stuff, especially with Bruzzese’s more pillowy vocal style that lets a lot of that vulnerability linger, and when the focus is shifted to himself and how he looks to provide solace and reassurance to his own daughters upon his passing on Olivia, Marley, And The Duck Pond, the more mature, reasoned context really is a good fit for Bruzzese.
It also happens to be the most memorable song on this EP, something that does need to be brought up considering This Is Coping’s greatest shortcoming is that it just doesn’t stick around all that long. That might be defeating the object somewhat, especially going by the mindset that this is designed more for Bruzzese himself, but it’s still being put out as a commercial release, and it doesn’t really do a lot on that merit. It’s certainly pleasant-sounding with the touches of reverb upon the melancholy indie-rock of All Alone Again and DP23, but those songs also embody how blank this EP can feel, where it has airy scope but doesn’t fill it in with anything all that engaging or interesting. There’s more of a stomping drumbeat on I Wanna Know and Olivia, Marley And The Duck Pond that’s reminiscent on Mumford And Sons in a good way, and the slithering trumpet that occasionally crops up touches on a bit more dimensionality, but This Is Coping for the most part roots itself in a quiet, placid indie-rock formula, and that’s not something that lands with much longevity. Rarely does the song composition extend beyond being pretty into outright memorable, and that isn’t helped by a rather empty production job and Bruzzese’s vocals that similarly don’t leave much to hold onto. It’s not bad per se, but it can feel overly toothless without much to balance that side out, and can leave This Is Coping as more forgettable and inconsequential overall.
And yet, for what it is and what it’s trying to do, Casa Loma isn’t an unlikable project. It needs a bit of going over to find a niche it can do more in, but at the centre of it all, Bruzzese is able to carry this more low-key material fairly well. The writing is still good even if the presentation leaves a bit more to be desired, and in terms of grasping deeper emotions that tend to fit with a sound like this, the potential is certainly there. Granted, there’s a lot of acts doing the same thing and it’s hard at this stage to see what Bruzzese can offer to separate him from the pack, but this is still alright at what it’s going for, and as a brief and harmless little listen, you could do a lot worse than this.
For fans of: Bright Green, Ace Enders, I Can Make A Mess
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘This Is Coping’ by Casa Loma is out now on Pure Noise Records.