Rating – 4/5
It’s fairly common for band members to have side-projects, giving them an alternative creative outlet and a chance to showcase their versatility and talents that may otherwise not be appreciated. While Man Overboard bassist and vocalist Nik Bruzzese doesn’t appear to be doing anything out of the ordinary with his indie/emo project, Casa Loma, on a personal level, it’s an incredibly brave move.
For starters, Casa Loma was never meant to be a thing. Bruzzese wrote This Is Coping to keep himself sane after a horribly tough few years. The EP was simply a form of therapy, and was not to be heard by anyone except those closest to him. He pours his heart into every song, and showing the world this deeply personal, vulnerable side was not something he intended to do. However, his friends at Pure Noise Records talked him round to releasing it, and now the world has an outstanding body of work.
It doesn’t need to be said that This Is Coping couldn’t be much more different from Man Overboard. The EP is predominantly acoustic indie and emo, with some folk influences added as well. It’s soft and delicate, with gentle, layered vocals flowing throughout. All this is showcased in the opening track “All Alone Again”. The feelings of isolation and hopelessness are conveyed eloquently through the soft instrumentation and slow pace. It’s a brilliant EP opener and sets the tone for what’s to come.
“DP23” follows, and focuses on death and the raw emotions it brings with it. It’s clear how personal this song is to Bruzzese, with the frank lyrics making for a chilling listen. The textures are slightly varied from the opener, and the addition of a trumpet adds another dimension to this deeply emotional track. A prominent feature of the EP is Bruzzese’s layered, slightly reverberated vocals, and they take centre stage on “Famaglia”, which also features a particularly touching bridge section.
“I Wanna Know” is the closest this EP gets to pop-punk and offers something a little different. Coming in at around half the length of the other songs and featuring a memorable hook, its fast tempo, strong vocals, and cymbal-heavy drumming are reminiscent of Dashboard Confessional and give the EP a surge of forward momentum.
Following this, the tempo drops again as we get to the standout track, “Olivia, Marley, And The Duck Pond”. Written almost as a letter to his daughters, this song aims to guide them through tough times when their father is no longer around. It’s difficult not to get emotional at how open and vulnerable Bruzzese lets himself be here. The love he has for his family is evident, and with a catchy chorus and some beautiful violin interludes added, this is an incredibly powerful song. The EP is brought to a close with Travelers, where violin and piano delicately take the lead. Contemplative and sobering, it’s a fitting closer and leaves you wanting more.
Bruzzese didn’t write and release This Is Coping with any main goal in mind. He wasn’t after further exposure or success. Releasing it in the first place was an incredibly brave decision given the personal nature and vulnerableness of it, but many people will be forever grateful that he made the decision to share it with them. It’s hard not to have huge admiration for Bruzzese for releasing such an open, honest, and beautiful piece of art after the torrid time he’d had, and he should be extremely proud of what he’s created.
Review by Will Cooper