Big things — rawness in experience, octave-hopping singing, complex emotional states — seem to interest Maine singer-songwriter-guitarist Jacob Augustine. If he’s seeking that kind of experience by using his voice, he pushes his vocals to their breaking point, from a whispered confession to a pained, wordless howl. In his lyrics, spiritual questions rub up against deeply personal tales of love and loss and cherished people making bad decisions.
Even in his own life, Augustine left the relative musical safety of Portland for his hometown of Lincoln (population 2,884), moving there to be with his family several years ago. That fact might do something to explain why the single “Salvation,” a split with Philadelphia band Bad Braids, is Augustine’s first proper release in two and a half years. Not that Augustine has been entirely dormant: he’s played shows around the state intermittently all the while with the players assembled on the single: lap steel guitarist McKay Belk (If and It), bassist Asher Platts (Theodore Treehouse) and Peter McLaughlin, who has played in a number of bands and who started record label Pretty Purgatory last year, which released the split single a few weeks ago.
“Salvation” is a stirring, evocative song, underlaid with McLaughlin’s delicate, jazz-inflected brush work on the drums and Belk’s understated lap steel playing. In fact, though there’s a kind of lonesome country-folk vibe throughout the song’s duration, the playing is so sensitive and attuned to Augustine’s vocal performance that in many ways it feels more like jazz than anything else. But it’s Augustine’s charismatic, spooky presence that elevates it, of course — those electrifying, sorrowful, falsetto howls punctuate stream-of-consciousness lyrics sung in his full-throated tenor-baritone that point to a worried mind, trying to make sense of the world. It’s nice to have new recorded material from Augustine. Let’s hope this is just the beginning.
Earth Person (aka Devon Cole, a resident of rural Waldo County) is an intriguing young musician. While he maintains an extremely low profile (plays few shows, hardly updates anything online) his music is resolutely magical and weird, blending electronic noodling with a bright-eyed, sunshine-y folk-pop sensibility. Which makes him a perfect choice to join forces with the folks at Sweet Pizza, the new Belfast-based record label and band of enthusiastic rockers, and release a split single with New York-via-Belfast sonic manipulator MOS. “Times are Strange” features a jauntily strummed acoustic guitar, Cole’s melodic vocals, and an accessibility that belies Cole’s inner psychedelic freak. The comparisons to Animal Collective that cropped up with his 2014 album “The Forgotten Bridge” remain, but there’s a homegrown kind of crunchy sweetness that — and forgive me if this sounds a bit vague — could only come from Waldo County. As a Waldo County native, I can say that.