Augustines - Augustines (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
AUGUSTINES go for the self-consciously epic with their eponymous sophomore album and achieve some impressive heights.
The Seattle based trio have replaced the deep-rooted sorrow of their debut LP, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, with something more awe-inspiring and optimistic. And while some may miss the heart-on-sleeve poignancy of that debut, there’s no denying this is an impressive follow-up.
In several of the tracks, Augustines display a big sound that’s tailor-made for stadium filling, while drawing on the credentials of Kings of Leon and Coldplay, not to mention U2, along the way. But they haven’t completely left the melancholy behind either.
Evidence of the brighter sound is apparent from the outset though. The intro track I Touch Imaginary Hands has a playful, wistful quality about its electronic sound that is utterly engaging, complete with Billy McCarthy’s trademark husky vocals.
That sound broadens out still further on the enchanting Cruel City, which has some interesting harmonies underpinning it (evidence of McCarthy’s recent decision to go travelling) and an epic expanse of a chorus that’s empowering in the extreme. It’s the sort of epic chorus that’s tailor-made for a euphoric soundtrack moment (a la The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, complete with skyscraping visual backdrop).
And the momentum is maintained on the more straight-forward rocker Nothing To Lose But Your Head, which opens with the sort of guitar riff that U2 would be proud of before unleashing a genuine crowdpleaser. Again, the chorus comes alive with layered vocal harmony.
Weary Eyes pulls off the achievement of combining melancholy-tinged lyrics with toe-tapping melody, benefitting from the extra gravitas that McCarthy’s distinct vocals bring, while Don’t You Look Back has an uncanny ability to mix Kings of Leon-esque guitars with a vocal sound reminiscent of Springsteen.
Walkabout, conversely, employs a sombre piano tone and finds McCarthy even coming over falsetto in a moment of intimate beauty that recalls Chris Martin at the piano during those Coldplay power ballad moments.
Elsewhere, Now You Are Free implores listeners “you’ve got to let go” and “go easy on yourself” amid empowering melodies and an anthemic, chant-along vibe, dropping in some quality riffage along the way, while The Avenue finds McCarthy at his most vocally stretched and yearning, while a sedate piano charms the pants off you.
Hold Onto Anything, meanwhile, rounds off the album with an almighty wail from McCarthy and an almost marching band back-beat, before dropping another track that’s all about the empowering and the euphoric. And yes, Arcade Fire and even Vampire Weekend comparisons are relevant.
McCarthy recently told The Daily Telegraph: “This time [the record]‘s absolutely about having the ability to help all the characters in the songs. There’s an empowerment to it. If you wake up every day and you have the best intentions and you carry yourself as someone who looks at the glass as half-full and you try to be a good person.”
It’s a sentiment that is plain for all to hear. If you’re life doesn’t feel at least a little better and more hopeful as you listen and for several moments afterwards then you’d best check your pulse.
Download picks: Cruel City, Weary Eyes, Hold Onto Anything, I Touch Imaginary Hands, Walkabout