This is Your Life is the Augustine’s third album for this Brooklyn based trio following on from their 2014 self-titled album which spawned a headline date at the legendary Roundhouse in London. Having recently sold out shows in Electric Ballroom and other festival dates over the summer they will then be touring in October. Lead singer Billy McCarthy has also recently completed a solo European tour, Journals, Maps, Stories and Songs.
This Is Your Life erupts into my eardrums with their first track Are We Alive?, all heartfelt emotion and beating drums. Apparently this song pays homage to “Big Jeff” Johns, a bit of a celebrity in Bristol for his constant appearance at concerts (he’s even featured in the video). At first I thought it sounded slightly like a clichéd, anthemic stadium rock sound, but on watching the video I warmed to its vibrancy much more and found it passionate. In contrast When Things Fall Apart, their current single, is full of lush electronica. They reminded me of an 80s band though I couldn’t put my finger on who. I got a sense of déjà vu and was transported back in time. I can see this getting radio airplay hopefully. They sound like they need to be seen live. It has a sense of bombast about it but is not without its charms and is foot-tapping.
Third track The Forgotten Way begins with a nice mellow piano sound. A string section rolls in which lends itself well. This is soulful with a beseeching, earnest feel to it; perfect for rainy days when you’re feeling reflective (it’s reminded me of the Doves). At this point I was enjoying the album. It wasn’t 100% my cup of tea but it had plenty of heart and energy. Running in Place has nicely layered harmonies with a synthesiser and another “urgent” tone to it however it got a bit too overstated towards the end I found with big choruses, but hey that’s just my opinion.
May You Keep Well immediately sounded like the introduction to Tears for Fears “The Hurting” but was nothing like it and didn’t really do a lot for me at first – but then it progressed. I liked the backing vocals of Pape and Cheikh, a Senegalese duo that gave it some clout like Peter Gabriel in his “So” era. Landmine was a gentle song, a bit like a lullaby until about three or so minutes in and then it grew in power and came to a crescendo with beating drums. I did start to lose a bit of interest around this point, and on the intro to Hold Me Loneliness but then the tempo stopped and started and changed the direction of the song which was an unexpected twist.
No Need to Explain came in full throttle and woke the album back up again. I really like this, it’s one to dance to and along with the next track This Is Your Life would be great to sing (chant?) to at a live concert with its swooping vocals and has a brilliant, life-affirming refrain “Knock me down my friend, I’ll just get back up again” which gave me goose bumps as it built to a climax.
Final track Days Roll By ended the album with another 80s feel and synthesised sound that brought to mind St. Elmo’s Fire by John Parr! I must admit I’m a sucker for soundtracks and this felt like it had its own plot and score running through it. It’s so full of emotion and stories in it it’s like a full-blown novel. I want to hate it as in places it does sound a bit full of itself but I don’t. It has so much sincerity, emotion and surprises in it that it carries it along to a happy conclusion.