You thought it said Mary Poppins didn’t you? I did. But while Julie Andrews is still showing off her nanny magic powers or do-re –mi-ing across those Alpine meadows. Augustine’s on a plane to SXSW in Austin with this song in tow.
We’ve reviewed Augustine just once before in NMC but I’ve written about him on several occasions since I saw him at By:Larm in Oslo in 2020.
In the last review I commented that in that live performance on the night in a small claustrophobic venue with a boisterous, macho crowd his trademark falsetto voice didn’t quite work. It was so quiet you could barely hear him and it seemed that many of his songs hung on that vocal and falsetto isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
But I’ve got used to it as we’ve gone along and this time out it has grown in gravitas and there’s a grand production to accompany it. This is the best work I’ve heard from him.
‘Mary Cookins’ is the first single of his second album and is released just ahead of his US premiere at SXSW.
He says, “Mary Cookins is about excessive worry and wanting a relief from the tightness in your chest.” I’d suggest he might want to try rubbing some Vicks on it. Or if it doesn’t go away, try an angiogram.
Seriously now, the song starts off with a powerful instrumental (synth/string) section over the first 30 seconds or so, as commanding indeed as a climactic outro might be. And not only does it not drop off; it increases with intensity, this is without doubt the most potent I’ve heard Augustine.
And that falsetto is drenched in groove and soul throughout.
There’s an odd vocal bridge in the middle and at the end which isn’t accounted for in the formal lyrics which I didn’t get at first but apparently it’s a sample of the 1970s band The Rotations’ ‘When She Slowly Moves Away’. I don’t usually favour short sampling like this but the off-set vocal works quite well here.
Augustine’s explanation of the meaning apart I’d interpret it as representative of a couple of misfits, perhaps as dysfunctional as the two in ‘Fairytale of New York’, but always looking out for each other. Or it might be that she’s a character in a novel that he is writing; one that he can relate to because she has the same flaws as he.
Whatever the reality Augustine has written some stylish dream pop here. It will assuredly go down well with the SXSW crowd – as long as they aren’t as noisy as those Norwegians.
Mary Cookins was released on Genesis Records on March 10th, along with a full-blown instrumental version.
He plays a show in London on April 19th
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