A lot will be written about the latest musical export from Sweden, Augustine, who first caught attention earlier in the year when he dropped his tracks Luzon and A Scent of Lily. At first glance, the new tracks on his newly-released debut EP seem to promise more of the same uplifting builds and studiously bright melodies that at times feel as though what might be created if you were to blend Dylan with Avicii, Rodriguez with Foster the People.
But this is more than a simple case of taking masters of folk and turning them into electro-pop. Augustine incorporates smooth brass and jazz instrumentals alongside modern rock and trance to create a potent musical cocktail. Add to the mix the artist’s wide vocal range that springs around energetically and captivatingly, and you quickly realise that too much of these tracks will get you pop drunk, and quickly.
What separates this music from other electro-pop artists is the lack of interest in slick varnish; the disregard for auto-tuning or using digital processes to create a ‘perfect’ (and as such, unrealistic) sound. Instead, moments of intensity – as when he reaches for the very limits of falsetto frequencies – are allowed to exist in a certain state of rawness that makes the music all the more real for it.
Indeed, while the driving beats, synth productions and mellatron tones can capture and thrill, the content of the lyrics often hints at something darker: a sense of oblivion amid the delirium – the madness of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with the existential angst of Hamlet.
There’s also a bravery in the departure from the driving, synthesised brass chord progression and smooth frequencies of his first track Luzon, to the melancholic, desperate vocals of Slacks – where, accompanied by slow, minor piano keys, listeners might suddenly think they’ve stumbled into a Bon Iver album. And, as with the emotional intensity of tracks found on Justin Vernon’s seminal For Emma, For Ever Ago, we encounter moments of oblivion found in the everyday (in this case, the impossibility of facing your reality while sat in your house wearing little else than tracksuit trousers):
“I was close to going out
I look so fucking helpless in these slacks
Another day is slipping through the cracks”
The hints at the versatility of Augustine’s ability long to be explored further; and it’s a shame the EP can only provide us with a limited amount of content to discover. The full album can’t come soon enough.
There’s an outstanding amount of talent on display here – and praise is well deserved for a 22-year old who has delivered an EP full of potential summer hits. As the world burns and stumbles from one political crisis to another amidst a global, catastrophic climate breakdown, Augustine captures the optimism of humanity and youth alongside the fear of the oblivion our species is facing.