Review Summary: With Augustana's second studio album Can't Love, Can't Hurt, I am absolutely amazed at how this band is not more popular than they actually are. Maybe it's because they don't sell out, or maybe they just don't want the attention. Who knows? What I do know
The first time I saw Augustana live was at a hole in the wall venue in downtown Denver. As I was waiting in line with my $20 ticket in hand, I thought back on how I would listen to this album while going through some rough times. I began to grow more anxious and excited to see how this band put their work into action on stage. Now, I know this review is sounding more like a review of Augustana as a band, but interestingly enough, a review of Can't Love, Can't hurt, IS a review of the band.
The sheer genius of this album begins and ends with the lead singer Dan Layus. How this man puts his thoughts on paper is so amazing to me. Watching his performance on stage made me realize how it would seem his talent has no end. Not that he is the only talent in the band. Not even close. ALL the musicians in Augustana could probably decide to do their own thing and be just fine. But Layus was definitely the spark that made the fire in my soul, because that's exactly where this album hits me. Right in the soul. I say this, because I watched this man sing I Still Ain't Over You on stage, and I witnessed something truly special that you never see these days. I witnessed a tear fall from his eyes. As if the lyrics had a direct line to Dan's emotions, and that was the moment that I knew this band was more than just an alternative band from Illinois, but a band that could ignite the passion in music that seems to be missing from the world.
Maybe my classic rating is a little biased since I first came across Can't Love, Can't Hurt while I was rummaging through songs on itunes thinking about how my life seemed to be spiraling out of control. The fact of the matter is, this album saved me in many ways. The first thing that comes to mind when hearing this album is that there is no shortage of beautifully written lyrics and melodies. When I first rewarded my ears with a listen to the song Twenty Years I thought to myself, it really feels like the somber piano playing actually seems to have an emotional aura about it. From the moment I listened to that song, I knew that I HAD to see these guys perform.
Let's jump ahead to that little hole in the wall venue in Denver. As I stood there anticipating what the next song in the set was going to be, I watched as Layus set down his guitar, walked to the keyboard, sat down, and began playing the gentle opening to Fire. The whole crowd was completely silent. The only sound was Dan's piano playing and soaring vocals. It almost felt like I was having an out of body experience as I heard Layus hold that really long note towards the end of the song that most people on this planet couldn't even dream of holding. And in a sense, that is how I would describe this entire album. An out of body experience. The infectious guitar work, the emotional piano playing, the talented vocals of Layus, and the value of the lyrics are what make Can't Love, Can't Hurt what it is. A masterpiece (in my humble opinion).
Even the more up tempo songs on this album are wonderfully done, including Sweet and Low, I Still Ain't Over You, and Meet You There, which at the concert I learned was about Dan's daughter. Makes me wonder if this love affair I have with their music will ever go away. I write music myself, and I pride myself on following Augustana's example by putting all I have into my music. Because, the fact of the matter is, putting your emotion and your self into the music is really what it's all about. You try to impart everything you have into the people who will listen, but at the end of the day, how you feel about the music you created is really all that matters. And that is exactly what I take from Can't Love, Can't Hurt. That's what I take from the band I witnessed at the little Ogden Theater. Listen to this album, and your life will be complete. (Sounds a little cliche and strange, but that's what happened to me).