Review Summary: Confronting demons with whispers.
, Angelo De Augustine confronts demons with whispers. It’s an album that packs huge emotions into a small space; this isolated bubble where De Augustine exhales life-altering heartbreak into the air around him. It’s also an intensely personal record…listeners are less “consumers” and more lifelong friends, sitting in Angelo’s living room as he confides in us through song. It’s a delicate, weighty experience that is impossible to ignore despite the hushed atmosphere.
Sound familiar？It should. De Augustine wears his influences on his sleeve, as an Asthmatic Kitty Records signee who now seems to be aspiring for his very own Carrie & Lowell
. Anyone who is a fan of Stevens will immediately be able to connect the dots – from the muted vocal melodies to the elegant piano lines/echoed acoustic plucks that, while minimally composed, seem capable of ringing out across the entire globe. Think of De Augustine versus Stevens as the S. Carey to Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver. It’s almost a master-apprentice relationship, and just as Vernon’s fingerprints can be found all over S. Carey’s output, Stevens has worked closely with De Augustine. As a result, the two find their works overlapping on several fronts, including a well-known live rendition of one of Tomb
’s lead singles, ‘Time.’ This hardly diminishes the beauty that overflows out of Tomb
, but it’s worth pointing out the reason behind such transparent similarities.
If Carrie & Lowell
was an album about the consequences of death – specifically in reckoning with the departure of Stevens’ estranged mother at the precise moment that she resurfaced in his life – then Tomb
represents the severed relationship side of the same coin. Take the following passage for example, lifted right from the album’s eponymous opening track: “I felt your heart beat as you pressed your chest hard against me / It was not of this world or of a dream, for the first time someone else loved me.” This record deals primarily with lost love, specifically through the lens of someone who hardly knew what it felt like to begin with. To endure such a long period of time searching, yearning
for love – only to have it ripped away from you as soon as it’s introduced into your life – is almost unbearable to imagine. Those are the kind of tragically romantic songs that populate Tomb
– a collage of bittersweet memories; odes to an attraction all too fleeting.
For all that will be said about De Augustine’s stylistic intersection with his contemporaries, it’s worth noting the quantum leap in production and songwriting that occurred between 2017’s Swim Inside The Moon
and this year’s Tomb
. Teaming up with Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) has lifted his sound from that of a bedroom artist to one that sounds immaculate and pristine, as if someone took his musical product and gave it a good dusting. This new glimmering Angelo has also produced a more confident songwriter, with tracks that assert their hooks and melodies boldly while also going through multiple transformations. The way ‘Tide’, for instance, evolves from pastoral/free-flowing acoustics to rhythmic strumming (a mere drum beat away from turning into an all-out stomper, really) is particularly impressive. These are embellishments we would not have witnessed from De Augustine years ago, when his entire approach was more timid.
What we end up with here is Angelo De Augustine’s most brazen step forward to date. Tomb
sees him not buried, but bursting forth with flourishing atmospheres. By nature his music is still very soft-spoken – almost Elliott Smith-like in that regard – but this is no longer the crackly, static-bound lo-fi songwriter that gave us Spirals of Silence
and Swim Inside The Moon
. I’d liken it to the way that Sam Beam made huge strides on Our Endless Numbered Days
after the sparse The Creek Drank the Cradle
. This is definitely not the best that we will get from De Augustine – there’s a whole lot more that can be experimented with in terms of tempo and variation – but that’s still a prospect that should keep us happily anchored in this stunning present time – with one eye glued, eagerly, to his very promising future.