Augustines’ “This Is Your Life” Delivers Powerful Alt-Rock Anthems

3 Aug

I first became aware of the band, Augustines, about five years ago — when the boys were still having a bit of an identity crisis. Guitarist and lead vocalist, Billy McCarthy, and multi-instrumentalist, Eric Sanderson, had recently split from the band, Pela. In fact, McCarthy and Sanderson had not only decided to go their own separate way, but they also intended to record the songs they had written for Pela under their new identity.

So, perhaps not surprisingly, they decided on a declaration more than just a name: We Are Augustines. That first album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, was born of emotional challenges that went far beyond the breakup of a band. McCarthy’s brother, James, had died in prison before he could be transferred to a mental hospital for the care he needed. Music was a critical part of the healing process for McCarthy. For fans of the new band, “Chapel Song” and others from that album were a revelation.

The band shortened its name to Augustines, added drummer, Rob Allen, as a full-time member, and followed that first release with the self-titled Augustines in 2014. Now, two years later, the Brooklyn-based trio has released This Is Your Life.

Augustines specializes in stadium-sized alternative/indie rock anthems. The band is incredible live — I had the pleasure of seeing them in person at the Independent in early 2014. In that show, McCarthy worked the stage like a bricklayer on a hot summer afternoon. He was bathed in perspiration from the effort that he put into his performance.

McCarthy’s distinctive throatiness works well with the band’s driving compositions and heart-wrenching arrangements. The album kicks off in HUGE fashion with “Are We Alive?” The pounding drums and growling guitars propel this urgent alt-rock anthem forward as McCarthy asks, “Are we alive?/Or are we just kidding ourselves?”

The next track, “When Things Fall Apart,” quickly shifts into a lower gear with an easygoing melody set over a skipping rhythm. The title track is another excellent selection from the album. Again, it’s an alt-rock anthem featuring McCarthy’s reassuring vocals backed with pounding drums.

There are two tracks on the album that include guest backing vocals from the Senegalese duo of Pape and Cheikh. The first of the two, “Running in Place,” is memorable for its shifting dynamics from faster to slower and the really cool vocals delivered by the two guests.

By the way, the band has a local connection — McCarthy is originally from the Auburn area, near Sacramento. If you haven’t had the chance to check out Augustines in the past, This Is Your Life is a good reason to do so. Take a listen.

 

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