All the Stars and Boulevards

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A four-piece group from L.A., Augustana combine the introspective grittiness of American guitar rock (think the Wallflowers and Counting Crows) with the wide-angle theatrics of U.K. guitar/piano rock (think Radiohead before they went nuts or a less epic Coldplay). That may sound interesting, but their debut major label album, All the Stars and Boulevards, is a fairly hollow exercise that feels like it was concocted in a record label boardroom. That's not to say that it was or that all plans hatched in that manner are inherently wrong. It just points to the elements (originality, excitement, soul) that are missing from Augustana. From the overly processed guitars to singer Dan Layus' simultaneously bland and over-emoted vocals to the slickness of the melodies and the clich├ęd authenticity of the perfectly crafted arrangements, there isn't much to sink your teeth into here. Even for fans of the bands Augustana are so obviously influenced by, they will feel like they are listening to a third- or fourth-generation Xerox copy. All that said, the album is still listenable in a strange kind of way since the lack of any distinguishing features allows the music to be perfect background music. Sort of like elevator AOR. Sort of like a wasted 40 minutes.

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