We Are Augustines' debut record Rise Ye Sunken Ships, held a typhoon of emotions within its grooves. That's what happens when reacting to the loss of both a brother and a mother to terrible circumstances. Billy McCarthy wrote passionate fits of melancholy, anger, fear, and joy not to be locked away in a personal journal but for a public airing of everything that's felt in the wake of such tragedy. Sunken Ships was a stellar debut in every way, but, as the band—now trimmed and slimmed to the tidy new moniker Augustines—told us back in October, it created a problem. No matter what they did on album number two, there's no way fans would connect to the new music in the same way they did the old. So, for their follow-up, self-titled album, they just went bigger. Massive, really.
Save the opening introduction, Augustines sounds like a band who has designed their music to work best soaring over the heads of thousands of festival-goers. Their sonic aim is substantial, as ambitious as behemoths like U2, Coldplay, and The Killers, but in a more likable, hometown packaging. "Don't Look Back" provides a personal favorite moment, a picture perfect chorus that's simple to nail the first time—"Don't you look back, you won't get burned"—so it can be wailed at the top of your lungs the second. "The Walkabout" provides an initial, obligatory bout of balladry...then builds and builds and builds. Yes, Augustines are having their movie-trailer moment. Over the course of the album's 12 songs, the boys pack away many enthralling musical moments...but this wouldn't be a proper Augustines album without a little sticky, emotional glue to hold it all together.
This time around that means excelling at painting the kind of vivid, romantic imagery usually provided by guys like Springsteen. Take "Weary Eyes", for example. Singing, "We laid on the roof, drank wine and we proved we could fix ourselves," McCarthey sincerely plots stories of people at their worst, somehow making them look their best. "All the tree-lined streets don't mean anything when your world is freezing," he later declares. It's this kind of grief-stricken, desperate poetry McCarthy is a master at, later detailing feeling love sick ("Cruel City"), lost ("Nothing To Lose But Your Head"), resigned to fate ("The Walkabout"), and ultimately free of emotional shackles ("Now You Are Free"). It's simple, pure, and perfectly believable to anyone who has ever been forced to fall out of love.
Ultimately such sentiment carried by cathedral-grade rock is a powerful pairing. But such loft in the ear buds is mere primer for what this band does best on stage. To really hear these songs, track this band down on tour as fast as you can.