All the Stars & Boulevards by Augustana (2005)

05Jan11

There’s a reason why I chose this to be my first album review. As I begin this project, I think this is my favorite music album ever. Augustana isn’t my favorite band. I’ve only seen them perform live a few times…at the 9:30 Club in DC (with Goo Goo Dolls), The Black Cat in DC (with New Amsterdams) and Merriweather Post Pavilion near Baltimore (with O.A.R.). And I wouldn’t say that any track on here is in the running for “my favorite song”. But there’s something about these songs packaged together that really define for me what an “album” is supposed to be. It’s got the perfect mix of consistency and curveballs in both the instrumentation and the message. There’s also something very genuine about what you’re hearing…a quality that you’ll really only find anymore in the singer/songwriter genre (where this band aspires to be despite their obvious talent with loud guitars). Hopefully it will just take one listen for you to fall in love with it too.

All the Stars & Boulevards starts off strong with ‘Mayfield’, which makes it pretty obvious what we’re gonna be dealing with here as they repeat “are we gonna make it?” a hundred times. Unresolved relationship issues anyone? Maybe you don’t care what the record is about…you’ve got some great guitar-driven rock in ‘Bullets’ and ‘Lonely People’, softy piano drama in ‘Boston’ and ‘Wasteland’, and it all comes together when the album peaks with ‘Sunday Best’. And stick around for the album-closer ‘Coffee & Cigarettes’ to put the icing on the cake. Any fan of the rock genre will find something they like here. If you really dig it, hunt online and find earlier versions of ‘Boston’ and ‘Feel Fine’…they’re not as good as the newer mixes, but it’s cool to hear the original versions of these tracks before the band realized they may actually sell some records and had better clean up some tracks. By the way, ‘Boston’ is the track on this album that you’ll hear and say “oh I’ve heard these guys”. The album itself is available pretty cheap online, and some versions contain a few live tracks. The live version of ‘Bullets’ is especially cool…it’s normally an up-tempo song that they slowed down to create a totally different track. And now, back to the story….

Once you’re about 5 songs in, it’s pretty clear that some sort of relationship conflict is being addressed. I guess the Million Dollar Question is who that relationship is with. Himself? A chick? The internal struggle is very obvious early in the record, but as the songs keep coming it’s easy to picture another person as the object of the lyrics. Either way, there’s some good introspective shit going on here. Or at least a few good shout-outs to New York, California and Boston. It’s not hard to find something to identify with in the lyrics…the vibe shifts back-and-forth between “teen angst” and reflections on adult relationships. Probably a pretty fair assessment of where we’re all at from time to time…just when you think you’re “all growns up”, you leave a drunk voice message and re-establish yourself as an insecure teenager looking for attention and affection. Is All the Stars & Boulevards the meaning of life??? Haha certainly not…but I really do love this album, and hopefully you enjoy it too. This was Augustana’s first major release, and you’ll read my assessment of their sophomore effort later this year!

music turtle recommends: BUY IT!

What do you think about this album? Comment below

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