Thursday, January 23, 2014
Album Review :: Augustines - Augustines
February 3 2014 (Caroline)
Words: Dave Beech
Brooklyn-based Augustines (formerly We Are Augustines – presumably enough people now know who they are for them to drop the affirmation) are a band who, despite being born from turbulent circumstances, lace their music with an infectious optimism that bleeds through, even in to their live sets. Their 2012 debut 'Rise Ye Sunken Ships' served not only to address singer Billy McCarthy's personal issues within it's lyricism, but to relay a universal message, that things can actually get better. Now, just shy of two years since it's release, Augustines are gearing up to release their self-titled sophomore effort, which sees the band heading in a more mature, and far more ambitious, direction than their debut, whilst still maintaining their inherent sense of optimism.
Beginning with 'Intro (I Touch Imaginary Hands)' it's clear that the band are noticeably more confident and probably feel in a better place creatively; far more melodic than anything from their debut 'Intro...' doesn't necessarily even set a bar for the rest of the album, but what it does do, like the album as a whole, is prove that Augustines aren't just one-trick ponies.
Unsurprisingly, the second track and first single, 'Cruel City', is similar to what we've heard from the band before, though still feels refreshing thanks in no small part to it's tropical feel and excellent backing vocals that wouldn't be out of place on Paul Simon's 'Graceland'. Following track 'Nothing to Lose But Your Head' again feels familiar, but makes use of multi-instrumentalist Eric Sanderson's talents far more than anything the band have released thus far.
Whilst the first half of the record can roughly be considered as business as usual for the band, track six 'Walkabout' signifies the halfway point in the record, and as such also a slight deviation in direction as the tracks become more ambitious, expansive. At five minutes long it's the longest track on 'Augustines' but also one of the most diverse, as, for the first half a gentle piano and McCarthy's usually gruff vocal reaches heights one would assume impossible for him. Mounting guitar and percussion picks the track up for it's latter half, whereas 'Now You Are Free' is another highlight and features the same big-sounding Americana that Tribes aimed for with 'Never Heard of Graceland', Augustines, however, being American, tick the box Tribes failed to noticed and as such 'Now You Are Free' finds itself as one of the most uplifting songs on a record already bursting with optimism
With 'Rise Ye Sunken Ships' Augustines carved themselves a niche in the market and stirred up more than enough interest in themselves to warrant a second album, and while 'Augustines' and it's expansive instrumentation may well earn them comparisons to an American Mumford & Sons, the fact of the matter is, particularly because of their stripped down vocal harmonies, it's a record which suggests that there's far more life in the band yet, and whilst there's yet to be a bandwagon with their name on, 'Augustines' could very well be the album that sets the wheels in motion.