It’s been one hell of a year for New York based band August Wells. They seized our attention with several brilliantly arranged stand alone singles and an Irish tour. Now they are getting set for the Irish release of their debut album “A Living & a Dying Game” on FIFA Records ahead of the release of their second album in the Spring of 2016. The group, led by singer Ken Griffin with John Rauchenberger released the lead single and the accompanying video from “A Living And A Dying Game” titled “Alice, Dear Alice” on October 22nd and have announced another Irish tour in the new year.
August Wells completed an Irish tour this past summer including performances at Other Voices and Electric Picnic promoting singles “Here In The Wild” and “Come On In Out Of The Night” but are set for a return visit in February 2016 to coincide with the new album’s release. The band has become synonymous with reflective and soulful refrains. At a time when we are consuming music at such a fast pace August Wells invites us to slow things down and reflect on an earlier era of songwriting and music appreciation. In a previous review I mentioned Glen Campbell. But alongside performing with Ireland’s favourite son Glen Hansard the witty duo have used influences from artists including Bacharach and Bowie just to mention a few.
For instance you can hear New York and the Bacharach style arrangement throughout the album with its use of French horn and trumpet. Even when instrumentation and tone may change this element returns as a theme. New York gets an early mention on the opening track “Mr Sun” although maybe not the most romantic of images. “I hate this city man// I hate the way it stinks// Tries to make me think// It’s weak to want no prizes from its hand”. Nevertheless there’s no doubt that New York holds a place in Griffins heart and is a source of inspiration and creativity for him. He accepts the city for it is. Likewise it’s no surprise really that Griffin then sought out Bowie as a muse. On Mr Sun and Rest of My Life we find references to space and spacemen. Is it a metaphor for loneliness or estrangement? A commentary on our times? In “Mr Sun” we find the line “Hello hello// Hello Mr sun// Been so long since I lay down under you// Hello Hello// I just came back to earth now what do I do?”
Or a wistful look back on the otherworldliness of love as heard on “Rest Of My Life”, “Love comes from outer space”. It’s the sharp wit that grabs you listening to “A Living And A Dying Game”. Like this gem from “Dancing”, “I was washing dishes// When they gave out the loaves and fishes// So I’m still kind of suspicious”. Or on “Dying’s Not Worth Living For”, “When you pick a flower it dies// Loving you is like picking a flower”. The lead single “Alice, Dear Alice” depicts a woman who knows too well the world around her. “Someone who saw the worth and worthlessness of living, the point and pointlessness, the hope and hopelessness. She seemed to walk around in the truth, looking with pity on the rest of us”, explains Griffin.
But it’s not all jazz and witty lyricism. While the album contains themes it shows exploration too. “Broken Little Dreams” is a much more stripped back affair while on “Paper Gardens” we have tinkling piano and fuzzy guitar. A nod to the West coast perhaps? We have a further break from form on “Dancing” with accompaniment from acoustic guitar. The same guitar appears on “Dying’s Not Worth Living For” along with the use of spoken word in juxtaposition to Griffin’s distinctive voice.
I’ve been a fan since I first heard “Here In The Wild” and listening to the album has just deepened my appreciation. Needless to say I can’t wait to hear what August Wells has in store of us on album number two! The band return to Ireland in February 2016 make sure not to miss them.
Upcoming Irish shows:
Jan 30th – Levis’ Bar, Ballydehob
Feb 10th – Brewery Corner, Kilkenny
Feb 11th – Boyle’s, Slane
Feb 12th – Coughlan’s, Cork
Feb 13th – Pine Lodge, Cork
Feb 14th – Workman’s Club, Dublin