After kicking off their career with “Boston,” a power ballad that took its cues from the Coldplay songbook, Augustana began to recast themselves as heartland rock & rollers. Released in 2008, Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt found them midway through that transition, but 2011’s Augustana -- the band’s self-titled third album -- completes the evolution, jettisoning the tenderhearted piano pop that filled All the Stars and Boulevards and replacing it with guitar-driven, chest-swelling anthems. Bruce Springsteen’s influence looms large, from the quaver of Dan Layus’ vocals to the Americana bombast of “Steal Your Heart” and “Wrong Side of Love,” two tunes that resurrect Born to Run’s grandeur with glockenspiels, gang vocals, and the panoramic production of Kings of Leon collaborator Jacquire King. As with many albums that swing for the fences, Augustana has some home runs as well as the occasional strike-out, and its weaker songs sound less like their source material and more like a retread of Sam’s Town, the Killers’ own tribute to the Boss. Sam’s Town also shoehorned glam rock, cheeseball ‘80s pop, and other bygone influences into its mixing pot, though, while Augustana keeps the recipe fairly simple, beefing things up with the occasional synthesizer but rarely deviating from its contemporary country-rock core. Who cares if the lyrics rarely match the uplift of the music itself? Layus still sings them like they’re gospel verses, channeling enough sincerity and bold self-assurance to make up for the fact that he’s the umpteenth person to compare his love to an ocean. This is the band’s best album to date. Looks like the third time’s the charm, boys.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey