From the moment Augustines' 2014 self-titled album hit my eardrums, I knew there was something unique about this band. Their music is utterly effervescent, brimming with exuberance for life. Every song is infused with a thrilling vibrance that makes listening such an enjoyable experience. Now with the release of their new album 'This Is Your Life', the spirited sounds have returned - this time, with a boisterous edge.
Overall, there are a lot of similarities between 'Augustines' and 'This Is Your Life' - they're both full of uplifting, epic tunes adorned by frontman Billy McCarthy's glossy voice. Yet some of the bigger songs on the new album lose a little of the intimacy that tracks like 'Cruel City' and 'Hold Onto Anything' previously offered. There's now additional layers of sound, be they added electronica or background vocals, meaning the album generally appears more full and present - which doesn't make the tracks better or worse, just different.
One of those bigger songs, 'Are We Alive?', kicks off the new LP in an anthemic way - you can easily imagine crowds chanting along to the song, and as the first single taken from 'This Is Your Life', marks a growth in expectations for the band. It's one of the most high-tempo Augustines songs I can recall, a snare drum leading the charge, with a quick-riffed bass guitar following close behind.
'ARE WE ALIVE?' - AUGUSTINES
Followed up by 'When Things Fall Apart', it's a perky song which comes to life at the chorus as McCarthy encourages us to get on with life when times get bad. Further in, 'Landmines' is a lot less explosive than its name would lead you to believe, largely driven by gentle acoustic guitar and a touch of strings, but does end with a bang. The penultimate and title track delivers another rambunctious offering, and sticks to the epic crowd-pleasing concept. As McCarthy decrees, "Knock me down my friend, I'll just get back up again," you can picture an arena filled with people clapping along.
As my personal highlight of the album, 'Running In Place' is truly a taste of the old Augustines: there's a touch of soul to this tender track, whilst still delivered with the gusto to knock you off your feet. It begins with subtle piano chords and McCarthy's cutting vocals as he laments over his solitude: "I'm not some lost kite in the storm, I've just been drinking all night, I guess I'm trying to stay warm." The chorus then bursts forward in a swirl of sound, with backing vocals from African folk musicians Pape and Cheikh. Its complexities and vibrancies are encompassing, even reassuringly familiar, sure to leave you with shivers down your spine.
And in the end, that's the kind of music you want in your life - songs that will move you, make you feel something. I can certainly attest that Augustines have successfully achieved this for me. For an album entitled 'This Is Your Life', it offers a gentle reminder of the precious time we have, and that it's best spent filled with joy and positivity.
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