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We Are Augustines - Rise Ye Sunken Ships (Album Review)

Tuesday, 26 June 2012 Written by Owen Sheppard
We Are Augustines - Rise Ye Sunken Ships (Album Review)

Brooklyn, New York is an area more or less synonymous with big, uncompromising, American hip hop, yet out of the city haze have come We Are Augustines, one of the most promising of 2012’s indie rock crop.

ImageThis gallantly named debut 'Rise Ye Sunken Ships' has only just landed on UK shores under Oxcart Records and it’s an album that safely sets them in tune with current indie trends that are increasingly departing from the lad rock, riff driven habits of the mid noughties. Rather, they are much more akin to the folky sensibilities of acts like Band of Horses and tastefully borrow from bands like Arcade Fire, with their use of strings and brass for an added bit of anthemic atmosphere. There’s also more than a whiff of British Sea Power to their sound as well, while the boisterous and very prominent drum beats on this album can be associated with this year’s indie folk darlings Dry the River.

Their beard clad front man and primary song writer Billy McCarthy demonstrates a flare for evocative imagery in his lyrical story telling which he mainly narrates with a ragged but soulful croon. Album opener 'Chapel Song' is a forceful statement of intent which canters along with expressions of a groom’s anxiety on his wedding day. 'Augustine' discusses a will to escape their city life with the declaration “New York City can go to Hell”. Meanwhile, 'Headlong into the Abyss' is a tale of crime, money problems and hedonism.

In fact, through a lot of the record there’s a theme that, in the same way as typical folk band will talk about rural life, many of these lyrics, like in folk, seem to reflect on the song writer’s surroundings and personal experiences. Only difference is McCarthy’s life has been lived in the city rather than the country. Does this technically make We Are Augustines a sort of inner city ghetto folk rock? There’s some great poetry in McCarthy’s versus and his rhyming skills look to rival that of a standard Brooklyn MC even if it’s in his preferred indie rock form.

The ingredients are all there for some potentially quite beautiful and left field guitar pop that boasts uniqueness while still holding on to many of the traditions of the genre, but objectively, the finished product does get forgettable and tired as it ganders on. In between some strong single worthy tracks, 'Strange Days' being one of them, there are some rather more boring offerings that let the record down. It’s all well and good to strum away on an acoustic and marry it with some poetry, but some of the song writing at times feels aimless, and like some of the songs just aren’t going anywhere.

'East Los Angeles' feels less than engaging and there’s little shift in tempo or direction at any point in the 45 minutes of this record. 'Barrel of Leaves' incorporates some ponderous piano balladry but it really just feels like the acoustic licks have been exchanged for some piano just for the sake of it, and that a chance for the band to take their persistent song writing formula off its tracks has been missed. But in regards to this aspect of the record, 'Patton State Hospital' proved a more interesting listen with some angular guitars and a crescendoing progressive climax. But by the time I had listened to the record straight through, it was disappointing to say that album opener 'Chapel Song' still seemed like the best song on the album, and not just the catchiest.

Then again song craft is an art that comes with time and practice, and armed with quite a dynamic style and pallete of influences, there’s no reason why We Are Augustines won’t find themselves ascending the steps to indie recognition sooner than later.

‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’ is out now via the band's own label Oxcart Records.

We Are Augustines 2012 UK Tour Dates are as follows:

Sept 30th - Bristol Thekla
Oct 1st - London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Oct 3rd - Manchester Ritz
Oct 4th - Leeds Cockpit
Oct 5th - Newcastle O2 Academy
Oct 7th - Glasgow Arches
Oct 8th - Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Oct 9th - Birmingham End

We Are Augustines Tickets are on sale now. Click Here to Compare & Buy We Are Augustines Tickets.

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