The Avett Brothers – [Album]

Saturday, 26 December 2009

The Avett Brothers have a lot of explaining to do. After all, the band has spent the majority of its career building a fan base almost solely on touring, releasing albums independently (more like self-released, actually), and garnering little airplay on the radio. Then, the boys suddenly jump ship to Columbia, record with Rick Rubin of all people, and decide to release an album almost devoid of the bluegrass roots that fans have come to know and love. This is the back-story to I and Love and You, and after a fan's listen I can hear a nearly-nation-wide cry of "WTF!?" because the game has clearly changed so much.

Have the Avett Brothers betrayed their fans? Have they released an Anti-Avett album? Well that all depends on how you look at it.

Can you define a band by one style? More precisely, can you define a band by a single instrument? Was Jimi Hendrix a guitar? Are the Avett Brothers nothing but a banjo? It's important to keep this in mind when listening to I and Love and You.

So, what kind of an album are we dealing with here? Well, it's different from their past full-lengths, that's for sure. Yes, the banjo is put away for the most part and the piano has taken its place. This is certainly a less playful album than what fans are used to hearing, but its significance shouldn't be understated. Unlike their previous efforts, I and Love and You has to grow on you. The seemingly boring, simple, and superficial songs start to take shape and resonate after repeated listens (and the passing of time, which is why this review was delayed, dear readers), and the specialty of each song rises to the surface.

In fact, this is album plays much better as a whole and is certainly more focused than the records the band has done in the last five years. The elements that defined their style are sparse, but present (the full-on country jamboree at the end of “Laundry Room” cannot be ignored, after all), although more in the style of the Gleam EPs, which sees the brothers playing solely with each other, as heard in “January Wedding” and “Ten Thousand Words.” It's a coherent and deep album that needs repeated listening to be appreciated. My only complaint is the placement of the title track at the very beginning. Quite possibly the best song of the lot, it's a bit of a shame to see the album potentially blowing its proverbial load early on. But this doesn't necessarily undermine the package.

What we have here is veritable mature album by the Avett Brothers, trading in their Hee-Haw persona for a more complex one. It's a challenge for fans, but one that pays off with work; seeing the band reinvent themselves to a certain extent, and doing it right. Have the band sold out? Maybe, but as Seth proclaims on “Slight Figure of Speech,” "They say I hope that you'll never change/ I went and cut my hair" and, in doing so, brings new life to a one-trick pony.



I and Love and You is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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