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The Critics Corner: Albums
Augustana | Augustana
San Diego pop/rockers stay the course mostly on solid new effort
Name: Augustana
Label: Epic
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Rating: 4.2 out of 5

Review written by: Erica Devaney

It’s been three years since the release of their last album, Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt, and now Augustana is back on the music scene with their new self-titled album, due out April 26 on Epic Records.  They are also well-known for their major-label debut, 2005’s All The Stars and Boulevards.  

The album begins with its first single, “Steal Your Heart,” which is receiving radio airplay and has that classic Augustana feel we’ve come to expect.  “Life is like a shadow, it never stays in one place,” describes how life is always changing.  It was a good choice of first single, with its familiar Augustana sound.

“Wrong Side of Love,” is a song about trying to hold onto love for as long as possible, even when it seems it is coming to an end.  It’s about doing anything for love, no matter what, “I’m holding on until you let me go.”  This song is very strong lyrically, with lines like, “You can’t trade today for tomorrow.”  There is a lot of repetition of lyrics, including “Oh, oh’s” that fit well into the chorus.

“On the Other Side” slows down the tempo of the album, “I don’t know where the ocean meets the sky.  I don’t know why the world keeps spinning by.” It’s about being with someone and nothing else around matters, just you and that person, “But when I’m with you I don’t need to know.”

“Counting Stars” is one of the high points of the album and begins with piano reminiscent of Augustana’s older songs on All The Stars and Boulevards.  I love how vocalist Dan Layus sounds on this song about longing.  It is a sweet song about missing someone and how you spend time just counting the stars until they are back in your arms.  

“Borrowed Time” has a stripped down feel to it.  Even though it is a calmer song, it still has you intrigued by the melody and vocals.  The music on this song is minimal and quiet, putting the focus always on Layus, as he repeats, “We’re only here.  We’re only here.  We’re only here on borrowed time.”  

The next track, “Shot in the Dark,” is my favorite song on the album. It brings everything back to a faster pace right from the second it starts.  The chorus is upbeat and has a full and solid sound and some of my favorite lyrics, “Rising up slowly and getting higher, I’ve been living with a hole in my heart.  Lay it down on me, but I’m a fighter, I know I still got a shot in the dark.”  It is an anthem about not letting anything hold you back and trying, no matter how hard things get.

“Someone’s Baby Now” is about thinking of someone you’ve lost contact with, with Layus asking, “Are you someone’s baby now?”  I love the lyrics and how it describes missing someone and wondering if they still miss you too; if there’s a possibility that they still think of you.  The music is quieter on the verses and builds up for the chorus.  

“Hurricane” is another slower song that almost gets lost in between the other songs on the album.  As a whole, it is one of the least memorable tracks, but it has stand out attributes, like lines like Layus sings forcefully and it finishes with a harmonica melody.  Layus’ distinct voice sings about always having hope, even when it seems there is nothing you can do in a situation, “You can only pray, when you’re waiting at the hurricane.”

The last two songs, “Just Stay Here Tonight” and “You Were Made For Me” are perfect closing tracks, but I would’ve liked them to be listed in opposite order.  “Just Stay Here Tonight” is a bigger song and would have been better to close the album with.  They are both hopeful and sum on the mood of the rest of the album.  “Just Stay Here Tonight” brings the album back to a faster pace.  It has beautiful lyrics like, “We’ll be the last ones, picking up the pieces.  We’ll be the last ones, standing up strong.”  It’s about being able to do anything together, “If you just stay here tonight.”  “You Were Made For Me” is slower and uses lots of repetition of the sound, “Hey,” and isn’t as strong of a song as “Just Stay Here Tonight.”

Augustana’s self-titled album has the great lyrics and emotionality that they are known for, as well as new progression both lyrically and musically.  I love the meanings and themes behind these songs.  The band will be heading out on tour in support of the album starting May 12.
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