Can t Love, Can t Hurt is 10 studiously-chosen cuts of modern, melodic, piano-driven rock, informed by a love of classic pop/rock songwriters from The Beatles to Tom Petty and covering deeper subject matter than the band s debut.
The most memorable line of the hit single "Sweet and Low" from Augustana's sophomore set, Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt
, goes like this: "Hold me down, sweet and low, little girl." What that means is anybody’s guess. But on a record this rich with tenderness, it hardly matters. Front man Dan Layus and company have come a long way since 2005's All The Stars and Boulevards
: this go-round, the piano's the thing, and it complements ballads like the heartsick "Twenty Years" and "Fire"--as gorgeous a lament as it gets on a record by a band of 20-something dudes--beautifully. In addition to tweaking the music, Layus seems to have made a commitment to laying off the whining; the dab of youthful shrillness that worked its way into "Boston," the 2006 hit that put the band on the map, has been put aside in favor of a near-whisper on tracks like "Dust," a sexy slow rocker that carries a whiff of Neil Young. If there’s a quibble here, it's that Augustana held back not on quality (Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt’s
production is so bright it practically gleams), but on quantity: at 10 tracks, the album that launched "Sweet and Low" is overly short and sweet. --Tammy La Gorce