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Angelo De Augustine - Tomb Music Album Reviews

The Los Angeles singer-songwriter’s third album, his most polished to date, covers the full spectrum of brokenheartedness.

Dirty Dancing holds a special place in Angelo De Augustine’s heart. The Los Angeles singer-songwriter’s mother, Wendy Fraser, sang alongside Patrick Swayze on 1987’s “She’s Like the Wind,” which soundtracked the romance between Jennifer Grey and Swayze’s characters in the 1980s classic. For De Augustine, a recent breakup heightened the song’s significance. Hollywood’s quixotic image of love also clashed with De Augustine’s personal history: His father, also a musician, left when he was five years old—an old wound reopened by fresh heartbreak.

With a woozy and unrequited eye, De Augustine analyzes the hereditary nature of abandonment on his third album, Tomb. His gentle vocal delivery, lyrical tenderness, and introspection feel familiar, particularly on a label helmed by Sufjan Stevens, who achieved all three on his last studio album. Similarly to Sufjan, De Augustine travels back to his past to square away ineffable loss in the present. On Tomb, he uses infectious pop melodies and spectral guitar work to frame patterns that recur across generations. Notably, “Bird Has Flown” grapples with his father’s absence, with muted piano and buoyantly plucked chords replicating cycles of pain and joy.

The hurt De Augustine examines doesn’t feel alienating. His sound is sympathetic and effortless. The resonance of acoustic guitar and roaming, arpeggiated melodies complement his balmy vocals. His hushed tone sometimes recalls early Bon Iver or Iron & Wine, but his ache is less apparent than the former’s, and he strays beyond the traditional folk that the latter is known for. Things get playful when an uncomplicated drum machine pulses in the background (“I Could Be Wrong”) or a bassline develops a casual swagger (“Time”). These simple instrumental flourishes make De Augustine’s music affable even when the lyrics’ distress suggests otherwise.

De Augustine is known for intimate, lo-fi recordings—he has even recorded in his bathtub—that personify vulnerability. But despite being his most polished full-length to date, Tomb shows him at his most candid and introspective. Trading his habitual fuzz for high-definition clarity, Tomb continues to emphasize De Augustine’s rustling vocals. Even though he’s grappling with heavy sentiments, De Augustine has a talent for cultivating calm. It is a private and ablutionary album, like retreating into a warm shower’s clouds of steam.

Many songs feel like unsealed letters to his ex-lover. From desperation to self-reflection, Tomb covers the full spectrum of brokenheartedness. “I Could Be Wrong,” a melancholy track apt for a Wes Anderson film, laments love’s illusion of permanence. In “Kaitlin,” someone who was once a source of solace triggers fresh agony. The title track, one of the album’s highlights, invokes the myth of Osiris, who was drowned and dismembered by his jealous brother Set. Reassembled and resurrected by his wife, Isis, Osiris ended up retreating to the underworld. As cited by De Augustine, it’s a chilling testament to the fact that love does not, in fact, heal all wounds. Still, despite the album’s dark, damp, sepulchral title, light manifests numerous times on Tomb. In the dizzying chime of his careful fingerpicking and high-pitched howls, De Augustine captures love’s bright blaze.

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