Thursday, February 6, 2014

We Are Augustines Raise Augustines

We Are Augustines emerged out of nowhere after the three-year hiatus from music that followed in the wake of the band breakup. The first album they produced was the single most powerful resurrection of a music career in 2011, and perhaps this decade, going on to earn best indie album of the year.

Originally consisting of Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson as a duo, We Are Augustines added Rob Allen just prior to the release of their debut Rise Ye Sunken Ships, which covered several difficult, personal, and painful subjects dominated by the deaths of McCarthy's mother and brother.

Somehow, despite the deep reflection, the music remained hopeful in its ability to heal. And, at the same time Rise Ye Sunken Ships rose up, it also raised expectations as even fans began to wonder whether the three-piece could measure up to such a landmark debut.

Augustines self-titled release rolls on as an extension Ships. 

Dropping "We Are" from their name, Augustines have found a measured middle ground in neither attempting to rise above their sensational debut nor surrendering any of the band's indie-alternative-folk roots. Instead, Augustines have put together a dozen tracks that further clarify and enrich their sound.

The next chapter for Augustines is both a continuation and a fresh start. It doesn't lose any sensibilities in the process, even if represents three years of growth as opposed to a lifetime of experiences. Here, it's easy to hear the promise of a positively charged album after the agony.

Whereas Rise was the silver lining on a dark cloud, Augustines is the sun of a new day breaking through to warm your face. The theme is inspiration from start to finish.

Nothing To Lose But Your Head punctuates this promise, screaming out how it feels when the worst is behind you. The dues have been paid. The ascent after taking a chance becomes the triumph, all the while adding the full weight of Allen's percussion for the first time.

That's not to say that everyone will be pleased with the sonic soundscapes that have replaced some of the dust and grit that was so additive in Rise. The distinction is especially apparent in Cruel City, which has some Graceland bounce to it. The entire album, thank goodness, does not.

After starting off with a percussion-led sliver for a minute or so and then moving into Cruel City and Nothing To Lose But Your Head, Augustines shift gears and re-ground themselves with the reflective Weary Eyes, Americana-rocker Don't Look Back, and stirring Walkabout.

Other standouts include the singalong Now You Are Free, the sentimental The Avenue, and the rousing hum of Highway 1 (Interlude). All of them make a great complement to Rise, which creates a bit of paradox.

Sanderson and his bandmates are right in that, musically, Augustines has a much richer and dynamic sound. But where it can't really compare to Rise is in the depth of the subject matter, making the new self-titled album feel like a one-trick pony at times. As such, while there is nothing wrong with calm or hope after making it through to the other side, it is difficult to sustain an entire album on that one snapshot.

Augustines Ease Into A Self-Titled Album At 7.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

With two successful albums to lean on as part of their extended repertoire, Augustines will only make the band stronger during live performances. It's a superb extension that reflects what the band has taken away from audiences after three years of touring. And while they are not married to struggle any longer, they seem oddly married to avoiding it.

Augustines can be found on Amazon. You can also download the album from iTunes or order it from Barnes & Noble. The band is currently on tour along the West Coast before sweeping south across Texas. You can fund their full schedule on Facebook.
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