Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Augustana “Augustana”

Pop rock
Augustana has cranked out three terrific albums in their 8 years together and they are overdue for big name success. I became a huge fan when I heard their sophomore release back in 2008, “Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt”. The record was so good it inspired me to also check out their 2005 debut, “All The Stars and Boulevards”, which was also excellent. Their brand of piano-driven pop rock and knack for hooks and harmony was right up my alley.

Enter this year’s self-titled release. Usually when a band names a non-debut album after themselves it signifies a reinvention of sorts. One could argue that is the case here – the record feels more heavily polished and slick, resulting in a more epic kind of sound. “Augustana” sounds more contemporary, but I miss the charm and innocence that was palpable on the first two releases. While I have mixed feelings about this shift in direction, there are still plenty of well-crafted tunes in this batch that have those hooks and harmonies that keep my attention.

Singer Daniel Layus sounds a lot like Scott Bricklin (Martin’s Dam) – a perfect voice with a great rock and soul tone, with expert control that balances power with emotion. “Steal Your Heart” begins this affair, which does little more than set the stage. An excellent hat trick of songs follows with the radio ready “Wrong Side Of Love”, “On The Other Side”, and sparkling ballad “Counting Stars” – my pick for a favorite on this record. “Borrowed Time” has the promise of a pleasant acoustic piece, but the guitar squeaks are obnoxiously loud – try some Finger-Ease, dude. Outside of the decent “Shot In The Dark”, the remainder of the album quickly slides into mediocrity.

“Augustana” is a solid album from a very talented band, but not their best work in my opinion. Be sure to check out Augustana if you like O.A.R., Neon Trees, or Carolina Liar.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 6,


Check out the video for “Steal Your Heart”

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