Sound — 8
Fields of melodic rock harmonies and lush soft rock flusters was Augustana's olive branch to the world on their maiden voyage in 2005 with the release of their full-length album All The Stars And Boulevards. The rock quintet who call San Diego, California home now, have extended a new olive branch to the world in the form of their follow up album Can't Love, Can't Hurt. With it, they solidify their role as models of modern melodic rock, following in the pathways of Mae and Snow Patrol. Lead singer/guitarist/pianist Don Layus shows his vocal prowess has a choral-like resonance fitting for a church, and the soothing mobility of Matchbox Twenty's lead singer Rob Thomas. Lead guitarist/mandolin player Chris Sachtleben and keyboardist John Vincent are adept at producing fluxing motions that gel with Layus' vocals like schools of crystal-like spores massaging into his voice moving the verses along, while the cleats in the rhythm section by bassist Jared Palomar and drummer Justin South drive stakes into the currents to guide the songs paths. Upbeat tracks like I Still Ain't Over You and Either Way, I'll Break Your Heart have modern rock arches and folk-pop vibrations relatable to Seattle, Washington's Sirens Sister with jangly tambourines indenting the melodies with sunny sprigs. Layus' vocals reach a gospel height on Duet as the spiky guitar chords propel lightning-like tentacles that move in between the verses. Layus plays piano on the rock ballads Fire, Twenty Years and Where Love Went Wrong making room for his emotive vocal inflections as the band's dirges draw out melodic rock shadings that give the songs a velvety lining in the hems of the songs traditional coattails. The band's downy textures take on a strategic gallop in tracks like Hey Now, Meet Me There Someday and Sweet And Low that make use of Augustana's slow-rising vigor, which has become a signature feature in their songs. Their song Rest, Shame, Love has a country-folk coda that comes alive with stirring gospel-sheen harmonies linked by tender synth-pop atmospherics. The album is middle of the road/commercial pop with sweet pleasantries that even come through in the spiky guitars and soaring vocals as they scourge the melodies skylines.
Lyrics — 8
Many of the lyrical themes on the album depict scenes that show a need to want to make right, those things that have gone wrong. Even some of the song titles allude to this theme like Meet Me There Someday and I Still Ain't Over You, showing feelings that ache for closure and to be sated. The words for Sweet And Low tell, And I'll carry you all the way / When you say you're fine / But you're still young and out of line / When all I need's to turn around / To make it last / To make it count / I ain't gonna make the same mistakes that put my mama in her grave / I don't wanna be alone. Sometimes the lyrics call out for outside help in finding answers for those feelings that are un-reconciled like in Hey Now when Layus admits, Everybody's gonna need somebody / To take our troubles and our worries and our problems all away.
Overall Impression — 8
You can't accuse Augustana of copying anyone else on their new album Can't Love, Can't Hurt, but themselves. Their music has cells of velvety textures and lithesome esthetics that categorize them alongside other modern melodic rock bands like Mae and Snow Patrol, but Augustana still manage to be true to their own identity. The success of their single Boston from their album All The Stars And Boulevards after being placed in the TV show One Tree Hill in 2006, put Augustana ahead of the line in modern rock. Although most songs on Can't Love, Can't Hurt have a predictable format, I cannot say that it necessarily hurts the album. After all, people around the world love pizza as long as it's formula sticks to a traditional format of baking the cheese crusted saucers. I guess Can't Love, Can't Hurt is somehow like a really good pizza or any food that you like that is made the same way time and time again. Sometimes abiding by a traditional format makes an item just the way you like it, and such is the case with Augustana's new album Can't Love, Can't Hurt.