I’m going to give Augustana the benefit of the doubt. I’m not sure exactly why — itâ€™s not that I know much about them. All I really know is that they come from San Diego, although the band was originally formed in Illinois. Canâ€™t Love, Canâ€™t Hurt (Epic) is their second major label album, and they’ve had enormous success with their ubiquitous single â€œBoston,â€ which achieved digital platinum status.
All signs, including the radio-friendly production of this album, indicate that the band is being groomed for mega-stardom. The problem is, thatâ€™s an awfully long climb these days, and very few bands actually reach the top. More often these bands have one hit, and then they are never heard from again. If this album does not sell in quantities that meet or exceed expectations, expect Augustana to be dropped from the labelâ€™s roster. It happens all the time. Major labels these days are no longer interested in building careers over the long term. Itâ€™s all about the here and now. Losing their deal just might be the best thing that ever happens to them.
So why am I giving them the benefit of the doubt? Itâ€™s about the songs. Lead singer/songwriter Dan Layus doesnâ€™t just have an appealing voice; he also has a knack for creating extremely melodic pop songs, with anthemic choruses and the occasional meaningful lyric. After listening to this album a number of times, I have concluded that this band has an indie heart, and the sooner they choose, or are forced, to follow the indie path, the sooner they will have found their true calling.
On first listen, I immediately thought of Counting Crows, and as they are one of my favorite bands, I was excited. Then the production started to get in the way for me. I suppose producer Mike Flynn (The Fray) did what he was hired to do, but this is too slick by half for me. On the other hand, if AOR radio is your thing, grab this. As an example, I give you â€œSweet and Low,â€ the albumâ€™s first single. I like the song. The production overwhelms me. Instead, check out â€œFire,â€ on which Layus laments the struggle to find true love, accompanied only by a lone piano. See what I mean? The talent is there.
So itâ€™s up to you on this one, depending on your taste. I will certainly be interested to see where Augustana goes next.