Copper Sails – Hiding Place

They may have a strong presence on Facebook and Myspace like every other indie band trying to sell their DIY ethic to the hipster crowd, but Richmond, Virginia-based quartet Copper Sails have far loftier ambitions.  Their entire fan base probably isn’t even large enough to fill up a NCAA Div. 1A football stadium, but that doesn’t stop these U2 disciples from giving it their all to demonstrate just how effectively their anthemic pop nuggets could work in a 20,000+ capacity venue.  Give the band’s debut album Hiding Place your undivided attention, and in return for the investment of your time, you’ll be dealt 11 job applications for the position of biggest band in the world.  You might argue that the job description was filled eons ago by Bono and company, or maybe the Irish rockers are still duking it out with Coldplay.  It hardly matters, though.  The music of Copper Sails is unflinchingly grandiose and doesn’t shy away from theatrics.  The cheese factor may run on high throughout, but the band deserves your respect just for sticking to their guns: crafting an original rock-lite sound in the age of Keane and Snow Patrol is not a feat easily achieved.

There are certainly a few standout tracks on Hiding Place that merit a more in depth analysis, but a majority of the cuts here can be summarized like this: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, outro.  Bathe the whole thing in several layers of slightly tainted guitar shimmer, melancholy keyboards, American Idol vocals, and anxious drumming.  This winning formula is worked to its breaking point.  But with no virtuosic performances submitted, there is a light cast firmly on their strengths as a group.  Since emphasis throughout is placed on textured atmospheres, Copper Sails have perfected how to effortlessly blend soaring melodies (Boomer Muth and Jonathan Crawley), flourishing keyboards (Kyle Crosby), and hyperactive drumming (Courtney).  Songs like “Nobody Moves,” “Okay,” “Spinning,” and the title track all make good on these qualities.

The band manages to break away from its comfort zone on tunes like “Reckless Motorist,” where the reverb-saturated soundscapes of prior tracks are eschewed for palm muted guitars, tick-tock drumming, and crafty vocal exchanges.  “Orange Peel” uses an urgent and arresting vocal melody to symbolize human layers and how our tough exteriors cloak the vulnerability beneath.  “Sleeping Giant” finds Copper Sails being lifted out of their midtempo purgatory in a moment of uptempo pop bliss.  The song feels like one of the album’s most unabashedly happy moments regardless of Muth’s hapless lyrics: “Despite the times, the world will go on without us.”  “Morning Comes Too Early” stretches past the six minute mark with a gorgeous instrumental coda that seems well suited to infinite varieties of onstage jamming.

Muth’s lyrical preoccupations are heavy on romantic regret (“All that I’m not for you is all that I need from you”), self-deprecation (“Each one that I see, is clearly far too good for me”), and cheap pearls of wisdom (“You are not alone / open up your arms and embrace the vast unknown”).

If these purveyors of Parachutes-era Coldplay survive long enough to make it to the arena circuit, they are guaranteed to satisfy.  Climactic moments of affirmation and everyman melodrama will ensure that even those stuck in the nosebleed seats will be able to indulge in the band’s penchant for singalong pop anthems.