CD Review of All the Stars and Boulevards by Augustana

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All the Stars and Boulevards
starstarstarstarstar Label: Epic
Released: 2006
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Okay kids, time to jump on the Augustana bandwagon. Released in late 2005, this band’s debut on Epic Records is bordering on melodic genius, with just the right amount of alternative grit, emotive vocals, and precision arrangements to make it a slice of sweetness for the ears. Anyone who has ever liked artists such as Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Better than Ezra, Ben Folds or the Fray is going to fall in love with All the Stars and Boulevards. And you will make this band your own.

The first single, “Boston,” is a piano-driven mid-tempo rocker with alt/pop melodies akin to Counting Crows, and a healthy dose of B3. But this song only touches the surface of what makes Augustana tick. “Mayfield” kicks off the set with a guitar-driven bang, and a chorus that is going to be etched in your eardrums until at least this time next year. “Hotel Roosevelt” is a shuffling tune with breezy harmonies and an in-your-face refrain that has an angry punk rock quality even the kids can appreciate. “Stars and Boulevards” is another super-catchy track that has a Wallflowers feel.

“Feel Fine” is a driving rocker and is followed up by one of the finest tracks of all, “Wasteland.” This song is a bit like Ben Folds’ “Brick,” but singer Dan Layus sounds a bit more like, well, Dan Layus, and that is meant strictly as a compliment. In other words: Holy shit, what a set of pipes. There’s also a bit of early Radiohead influence evident on slower tracks like “California’s Burning” and “Coffee and Cigarettes.”

Hey look, it’s easy to sit on a writer’s perch and say a band is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But it’s a lot harder for a band to make a writer say things like that. For the members of Augustana, you have pretty much accomplished that, because you guys are the greatest thing since…well, you get the idea. All the Stars and Boulevards is going to impact fans of any of the bands mentioned in this review, and in a religious sort of way.

~Mike Farley