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Despite their upbringing deep in the heart of Texas, the young men of Courrier uncovered a British sensibility at their formation in 2009, evoking the historic legacy of alt-rock greats from across the pond. And though their arena-ready tracks are full of ascending harmonies and pulsing drums, Courrier’s lyricism and “thought-rock” remains heartfelt, transforming the intimate struggles and hopes of our existence into energetic anthems. With dozens of features, from shows like Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries to NFL commercials and feature-film trailers, as well as a three-page layout in March 2013’s issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, it seems the world has accepted their nomination for that stadium-sized lineage.
“Can you hear my heart, hear my heart now?” Courrier lead singer Austin Jones belts out in “Love Is A Fire,” the lead single off of the Texas-based group’s latest album, Cathedrals of Color.
To answer Jones’s question: yes – anyone who gives a listen to Cathedrals of Color can clearly hear the heart behind the songs. On the follow up to its 2011 debut A Violent Flame, Courrier packs in enough feeling and alt-rock grandeur to fill up the mighty buildings of their album’s namesake. For a young indie band out of Austin, their sound is undoubtedly big – utilizing soaring guitar melodies and pulsing drums. While many other new bands fall flat chasing similar arena-sized ambitions, Courrier was guided by the knowing hand of producer Tim Palmer during the making of Cathedrals. An appropriate mentor for the group, Palmer knows a thing or two about “big” sounds having worked with such bands as The Cure, Pearl Jam, and U2.
The most stadium-ready track on Cathedrals, “Your Eyes Shine in the Darkness” is a love-letter in the scale of an anthem. The listener can feel the endless possibilities of Jones’s love as he sings along with the pounding rhythm and sweeping guitars, all the while emitting a Coldplay level of wonder. Another larger-than-life track, “The City at Night” captures the insignificance one feels when passing through a city afterhours, observing the resilient magnificence of the skyscrapers amongst the darkness.
Although they have a tendency to be sonically grand, it’s not to say that the members of Courrier are incapable of playing on a slightly smaller scale. Songs like “Stained Glass Window” and “Heavy Hands” posses the same emotional core and sense of urgency, but they seem closer to the band’s indie-roots rather than their arena-aspirations. On cuts like these, the musical influence of Death Cab for Cutie (a particular band that Jones has cited numerous times) is almost inescapable. The alt-rock sensibility displayed by Courrier in these tracks suggest it plausible that, in a few years time, the gang from Austin might be categorized with more notable alternative acts such as Snow Patrol and Modest Mouse.
Then again, that’s only one career path that Courrier could take – several songs off of Cathedrals are considerably pop-oriented; whether it’s the quiet ballad “A Light in the Tunnel” with its sweet message of commitment or the Top 40 friendly “Human Heart” with its synth-beats and catchy chorus of, “I’m a human heart, watch me as I fall apart.” Courrier could easily pursue this route and find success in the mainstream as a pop-rock band in the same vein as The Fray. To do this though, the band would have to sacrifice their indie credibility – a tough prospect, especially since Courrier takes pride in being a self-proclaimed “thought-rock” band, drawing inspiration from pieces of literature and poetry to create equally artistic lyrical images and metaphors.
Ultimately, Cathedrals of Color is the sound of a young band experimenting with a myriad of sounds and colors in order to find their own. The members of Courrier are trying to decide where they want to go with their music – whether they want to stay in small rock clubs or dominate the stereos of supermarkets nationwide with arena-sized swagger.
By Christopher Gillespie