April 29, 2008
The album opener is ‘Hey Now’ is the updated (though in my eyes, not upgraded) version of a previously released demo under the title ‘Heart Shaped Gun’. They slowed down the song and changed the lyrics slightly. This might work for an acoustic version, and the song still has some strength, but personally I think it sounds quite a bit better when it’s more up-tempo. I am still finding myself singing along to the song, so there must be some kind of catchiness to it. I guess the song’s not too bad and it builds up momentum well, but both musically & lyrically I think ‘Heart Shaped Gun’ was stronger. It had a little more guts.
‘I Still Ain’t Over You’ is one of the strongest tracks on the album. The song is 1000x better live (check out the SXSW acoustic), but the album version still has that catchy loop going and it comes out beautifully. The right tempo for this song. And the lyrics, though a bit cliche in the chorus, are well-written.
Next is the lead single ‘Sweet & Low’, which is extremely catchy and a perfect radio song. After one or two listens you can sing along the whole thing and it’s not too monotonous yet very catchy. Great “stuck in your head song”.
We are now reaching the climax of the album, with the song ‘Twenty Years’. It was a fan favorite already, even before the album came out, and several live versions were circulating on the net. Great lyrics (“in the morning it’ll find you/let the light shine the way/down a road that’s leading me nowhere/and there’s no way around it/could this be our last dance?”), and a very strong performance with plenty of emotion in both the vocals & the music. The fragile piano melody emphasizes the vocals to a point where they become one. Without a doubt this is my favorite song on the album. And the song comes to a climax perfectly near the end.
‘Meet You There’, the next track on the album, is also a song with strong lyrics and a solid performance. It’s an up-tempo song with a very catchy rhythm. I absolutely love the chorus and the vocals on this song are great. Another great addition to this very strong middle part of the album.
The emotional piano song ‘Fire’ is next up. It’s a cute little song which is something Augustana does well. This songs reminds me a little bit of Hanson, who in fact are quite similar to Augustana. ‘Fire’ is one of the few, or maybe the only song that I like better on the album than live. Great production on this song, as on the whole album actually.
The album continues strong with ‘Either Way (I’ll Break Your Heart Someday)’. The song title suggests a break-up song, but it’s not quite that. The lyrics are among the strongest on the album and although it doesn’t measure up to the live/acoustic version that was circulating online, it still is an amazing song, that could well be the next single from this album. I’d go for either this one or Meet You There. Some parts of this song remind me of Boston musically, but the feel and sound of the song are definitely different.
Next up is ‘Dust’, which is a song that a lot of fans seem to love. I’m probably one of the exceptions. It’s a decent song and it has a lot of potential, but it is one of my least favorite songs on the album. It’s different, but I don’t think this is exactly in Augustana’s comfort zone. When they play it live they usually do some free jamming during this song, which makes it an interesting live experience. But I don’t care too much for it on the album.
Then we hear ‘Rest, Shame, Love’, which reminds me a lot of Seven Mary Three, Sister Hazel and old-school Nine Days (before they got well-known). And this is exactly where Augustana’s comfort zone is. Vocally this song is as close to perfect as it gets and the guitar melody serves the song perfectly. It comes off as a singer/songwriter song, both musically & lyrically, but Augustana performs it as a band song, and does that very well. The subtle “duh-te-doo” halfway the song works as a balance/breaking point for the song, and after that the chorus comes back one more time and this song really speaks to the listener.
The regular album ends with ‘Where Love Went Wrong’, which is another piano-based song. When I listen to this song I always feel like there’s something missing. To me it sounds more like a bonus track than an album song. It’s nice, but I would’ve switched it with the bonus song ‘Reasons’.
‘I’ll Stay’ is the first bonus track, formerly known as Cocaine. Great song, and I don’t really understand why this wasn’t put on the regular album. Because everyone should hear this song. Great pace and great lyrics and Augustana convincingly performs this song. And on top of that it would make for a great radio single. I really really love this song and it should have been on the regular album.
The same kinda goes for ‘Reasons’, though I understand that they made this song a bonus track. Maybe the best lyrics on the album, together with Twenty Years. And the sensitive acoustic performance with the vocal harmonies ties this song together very beautifully. Augustana ended several live shows with this song and it got great response. When you hear this song you will understand why. It sounds great.
Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt is a major step forward for Augustana. Where All The Stars.. got slightly monotonous after a lot of listens, this album is more diverse and better balanced with differently paced songs, guitar-based vs. piano-based, emotional vs. light, etc. And Augustana found their comfort zone, which is obvious, because the songs come out so much more naturally and genuinely. If All The Stars.. scored a 7.4/10, this album scores a 8.8/10 at least. When I’m in a good and generous mood I will easily give it a 9/10, but if I’m realistic I think there’s still some room for growth and I’d stick to the 8.8.