on September 11, 2012
Sometime after 2000, bluegrass and folk music started to experience a revival - bands were springing up from all parts of the western world playing music that was influenced by folksy do-it-yourself songwriting. It would be hard to say that the Avett Brothers aren't at least partly responsible for this uprising. The band has been around since the early 2000's, releasing 6 full-length records since their inception (among a ton of other releases) - their latest release is not only the 7th for the band, but it's also the second with Rick Rubin helming production duties. Rubin, who's worked with everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Jay Z to Johnny Cash, helped the band shave away some of their grittier aspects to make way for the infectious melodies of 2009's I AND LOVE AND YOU. 2012's THE CARPENTER finds the Avett Brothers continuing where they left off.
If I had to describe the Avett Brothers' sound, I'd say it falls somewhere between the blue-grassy stained Old Crow Medicine Show and the indie-sensibilities of Mumford & Sons. The album begins with "The Once and Future Carpenter," a song that relies on the band's trademark Americana lyrics. Following the first track, the album hits it's groove with three fantastic songs in a row ("Live and Die," "Winter in My Heart," and "Pretty Girl from Michigan.") The second track, "Live and Die" serves as the lead single promoting THE CARPENTER. It's an upbeat track, but it's defined by its dominant melody - it's a song that will be hard to get out of your head with lyrics to match: "Can't you tell that I am alive? Let me prove it to you." The next track, "Winter in My Heart" is one of the more somber tracks on the album. It begins with only vocals and guitar, but it slowly develops into a more haunting ballad - it strikes a balance of being both beautiful and heartbreaking. After the last notes play out, "Pretty Girl from Michigan" changes the pace considerably - if the previous track was one of the softest on the record, this track is one of the more rocking.
While I do think that the album peaks early, the remaining 7 tracks are not to be scoffed at. THE CARPENTER could be the Avett Brothers' most consistently satisfying release yet. "Through My Prayers" is a nice ballad that wears its sincerity like a badge of honor. "Down With the Shine" ventures towards blue-grass territory with wonderful results - its swaying melody (and horn section) is hard to resist. The upbeat "Geraldine" only lasts barely over a minute and a half, but it makes a lasting impression on the album. The album concludes with "Life," a final ballad with beautiful harmonies that just hits all the right notes. It's a terrific ending, and I think it's a great complement to the tonal qualities of the album's opener, "The Once and Future Carpenter."
The Avett Brothers made their name by working - their albums are earnest, sincere, and feel lived-in. The same kind of craftsmanship a carpenter would show for a piece of woodworking the band show with each record they release, and THE CARPENTER is no exception. For me, this might be the most consistently satisfying Avett Brothers record to date. I would recommend this album to anyone who enjoys Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, or Old Crow Medicine Show. Essential tracks to sample/download: "Live And Die," "Pretty Girl From Michigan" and "Winter In My Heart."
on September 11, 2012
The Avett Brothers albums in my mind since Mignonette have been epic. This is epic. This is Avett. This is, however, quite different and more akin to I and Love and You.
Its been a while, three years I guess since their last album, and as they sing in "February Seven", "they are rested and ready to begin". What you get is a lot of really intricate and powerful ballads that are stripped down and intimate but more often laden with cello and piano than in the past. February Seven and Fathers First Spring are probably my favorites, but Winter in My Heart is soooooo lonely and intense.
While there are numerous ballads on this album, you do get some more classic-ish Avett uptempo songs that, for better or worse, you will wake up singing. If its any song on the album, I bet you $1 it will be the Live and Die. In fact the simple melody, and banjo play will have you singing along EVEN WHEN YOU DONT KNOW THE WORDS. Its like magic. Pretty Girl in Michigan is different, almost some type of throwback doo-wopish type song that I'm struggling to pin, but its catchy. Geraldine and I Never Knew You also more upbeat.
The one song that I am really curious to hear what long time Avett purists say is Paul Newman vs. The Demons... um, its more electric than anything they are used to, that I promise.
What you don't get in this album are raucous and edgy vocal front songs, and you don't get as much banjo. You get DEEPER far more intricate songs with more cello and piano, but lyrically... super solid, but I'm still digesting this.
If you liked I and Love and You, you are going to like this. Its somewhat like someone took your oldest most comfortable jeans and took a few minutes updating them with a bedazzler. You can still feel Avett, and the color is the same but its just a little different, with a little different sparkle.
Definitely worth a shot. Thanks for the read.
on September 21, 2012
So, I fell in love with the Avett Bros. about 3 years ago. It started with "I and Love and You" on the radio, which piqued my interest, but I didn't do anything with it. Then my brother, who incidentally is the person who seems to introduce me to most of my favorite music (Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Phish, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, DMB. etc., etc.), had to have heart surgery and while we were there in the hospital, his wife kept talking about the Avett Bros. and how much Cory loved them. It was only after I dug into it that I realized this was the same band, so I promptly went out and bought "I and Love and You". Now, I know for many fans, that album was a bit of a let down. Too polished, over-produced; a departure from the raw, invigorating sound that was the Avett's I would come to know through the Gleam albums and Emotionalism. However, I thought "I and Love and You", while polished, was still a great album with beautiful lyrics and real emotion.
Now comes "The Carpenter"; yet again produced by Rick Rubin - polished, clean, pretty, almost poppy. On some level you had to expect it. Bands, like the people they are comprised of, change, mature and grow in directions that their fans don't always follow (I don't remember the last time I bought a DMB album, for instance, but that doesn't mean I don't love their old stuff still). This album is a little more mellow, and has the distinctive finger print of the talented Mr. Rubin on it. Part of me really yearns for a return to Emotionalism's unfiltered feeling. The sound that your ear instinctively knew said, "Hey, this is us, mistakes and all and it's part of what makes us great."
That said, I can't really knock the album too much. With exception to the Banjo (MORE BANJO! I miss it terribly! One song? One??? Come, on guys!), the core sound of Avett Bros. is still there - the lyrics are meaningful, the melodies are new but familiar in nature, the band is tight and the harmonies are wonderful as always (though I wish Scott's voice were in the lead a little more often). The first 9 tracks are generally very good. The album sort of peters out in the last three tracks. Paul Newman vs. the Demons is a throw-away song, if you ask me. I am totally in love with the first two tracks, "The Once and Future Carpenter" and "Live and Die" (mostly because it's the banjo song, not because it's "the single" that is being pushed right now). "I Never Knew You" is a fun romp with the energy you would expect from Avett Bros. (I can't wait to hear it live). "February Seven" may end up being my favorite song ultimately - it really hits a chord. "Through My Prayers" sometimes seems a little cliche, but it is still heartfelt and frankly brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it (it also has Oboe in it, which is awesome). "Down With the Shine" is a personal favorite as well and "A Father's First Spring", while not their best effort ever, really touched a chord as I am a father of an 11 month old daughter and "my heart is now ruined for the rest of all times" as well.
Their best album, no. A great album, yes. Next time, though, I hope they go a little more lo-fi and bring back the darn BANJO. MORE BANJO!!!
P.S. - Mr. Kwon, you rock, sir. You. Rock.
on September 12, 2012
I, as were many of you, was a bit letdown by the first Rick Rubin-produced album the Avett Brothers put out. Too poppy, too soft, not enough banjo - not enough Avett Brothers. This new album is better. The first couple of songs are excellent, but the rest of the album is hit-and-miss. Yes, it's poppier, yes, it's quieter, yes, it's more radio friendly. But yes, it's still a solid album. While I miss the Avett Brothers of old, I still kind of enjoy their new stuff. I just no longer rank them among my favorites.
on October 10, 2012
I love the Avett brothers mostly for their bluegrass/folk songs. Paranoia, die die die, at the beach come to mind. I gave this album a full listen-through a handful of times. The problem I have with it is that it just seems to drone on. Sounds like the same slow, folky love song from start to finish. There aren't really any identifiably upbeat or catchy songs on this album. Once "I never knew you" ends it just seems to drone on and I have a hard time keeping interest in it.
I think this is more of an opinion based review on my part. There isn't really anything wrong with slower love ballads, its just not for me. One or two on an album is fine--but more than half is too much.
If you dig songs with talented vocalists sitting by a campfire singing lovesongs with an acoustic guitar pick it up. This is just not for me, which is sad because I love the Avett brothers...
The days of the Avett Brothers coming across as some sort of newgrass country punk band are long behind them. Their last album "I and love and you" was a huge hit in the States and was produced Rick Rubin whose impeccable track record with artists like Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Neil Diamond and a host of other bands sees him as one of the most recognisable big beards in American music. The Avett's new album essentially picks up where the brothers from Concord, North Carolina left off in 2010. This is great news for those who love the reflective heart wrenching alt country songwriting side of the band, perhaps less good news for those who hark back to the raucousness of early albums like "Mignonette". Progression however is the name of the game and once again "Carpenter" is an album that screams out for an audience the size of which has been generated for Mumford and Sons in the US not least for a band that can literally blow away all comers with their explosive live act. The recent Grammy backing of both acts to Bob Dylans "Maggie's Fram" was a joy to behold.
Standout tracks here include the opening track "The once and future carpenter" which is a gorgeous travelling road ballad full of lifting melodies, soaring vocals from the brothers and building crescendos which make for a sterling start to a very fine set of songs. The plaintive lament "Winter in my heart" does suffer slightly on the lyric front but its good song that builds to a fine climax. Much better however is another in the series of "Pretty Girl" songs which started back in 2002 with "Pretty Girl From Matthews". Here it is "Pretty girl from Michigan" and clearly whoever said female was, she struck an inspirational chord with the brothers who have produced one of their best ever old style rock 'n' roll ballads in this great tune. Another Avett's mainstay is a passing nod to the early Beatles and it comes in the form of "I never knew" with superb harmonies providing the underpinning driving force. Best of all is "February Seven" and effortless country heartbreak love song which speaks of "A wound across my memory/That no amount of stitches would repair". It will no doubt generate huge accompanying audience participation when played live. Irritatingly the penultimate song "Paul Newman versus the demons" seems like the albums token rocker and largely serves to disrupt the end of the album. It may improve on repeated listens but for now it jars rather than flows. Far more preferable is "Down with the shine" with a nicely picked banjo in the background and the final song "Life" a big reflective ballad to round off proceeding with considerable style.
Check some of the reviews on this site and some of the bands supporters are berating the fact that Rubin has again shaved off some of the rough edges of the Avett's and underplayed their former banjo fulled high energy. There is is something in this but clearly the brothers have been keen to emphasise their songwriting credentials in recent albums and it would be a pretty poor show if they constantly rehashed "Country Was" over and over again. That said they do need to think about what next after "Rubin" who has certainly brought a more cohesive and polished sound to the band. For now "Carpenter" is an album made for the fall, brimming full of introspective meditative ballads that seem to grow in character and stature on every listen. This reviewer will resist the urge to utilise some form of carpentry metaphor to finish suffice it to say that the Avetts new album is a solid construction fashioned from ancient materials and shows real craftsmen at work. Sorry couldn't resist.
on June 18, 2013
The Avett Brothers can almost do no wrong. This album is superb. Unlike their British counterparts (Mumford and Sons) that sing about nothing, the Avett Brothers continue to produce stellar music that relates to everyday life. Their song "A Father's First Spring" is especially moving. I know that my life forever changed when I became a Dad to a little girl. To quote from the song:
When I’m in the sweet daughter’s eyes
My heart is now ruined for the rest of all time
I think another reason I have been so drawn to this song is the knowledge of what is going on with Bob Crawford. Bob Crawford is the bassist of the Avett Brothers, and his daughter Hallie has battled brain cancer. As a father of a little girl that has gone through surgery, I identify with this. This is another reason I love this band. Their willingness to be open, their humility, and now, their efforts in aiding a place like St. Jude’s all make me like them all the more.
The Avett Brothers have become one of my favorite Indie bands of the last decade. Their hybrid musical venues are varied, but you get quite an injection of styles and influences. From their banjo strumming bluegrass to their upbeat alternative gems, they are a continually rising and prospering band to be reckoned with.
One of their achille's heels has been their penchant for pensive, melodic songs, which often sound like dirges of pop music. While entirely sincere there renditions of music reminding as from the pen of Roudin's sculpture with his chin in his hand and the heavy sighing of a man who's had too many beers to drown out his sorrows.
On their truly excellent album 'Emotionalism' (my personal favorite), they have wonderfully upbeat, quirky songs such as "Die, Die, Die," their classic "Paranoia in B Major," and a great rousing trio of romantic songs, "Will You Return," "Pretty Girl from San Diego," and "Pretty Girl from Chile". Now those of you who know 'The Gleam' e.p.'s and the slow songs from 'Emotionalism' may agree with me that when they're pensive, they certainly round out the mood and consistently channel their emotions, but they don't give us their best songs. Only "Shame" articulately digs for treasure in the sad song repertoire of the Avett Brothers.
'The Carpenter' changes all of that. Not only are the fast songs invigorating, but the slower songs are melodic and exquisitely phrased. There isn't a bad track here. Particularly, the Beatlesque "Live and Die," "A Father's First Spring," and the masterpiece "Winter in My Heart" demonstrate a slow-tempo strain of songs that, if any thing, is better than the progressive numbers.
But don't be fooled by AM readiness of this collection. Just when songs like the appealing "Live and Die" come to the forefront, then they counter this approach with the idiosyncratic (and worthwhile) "Paul Newman Vs. The Demons".
The variety of 'The Carpenter' and the breadth of tempos and musicianship are expert like no time before or since. While 'You and I and Love' state a good case to bring The Avetts into the top of the charts, 'The Carpenter' has the musical and lyrical finesse to scotch all other achievements for a band that seems to have just gotten started.
on September 14, 2012
I must admit, prior to the release of this album, I was very skeptical (and worried) of the direction the Avett Brothers would take. Would they move closer into the mainstream with an overproduced album or would they stay true to their roots while growing and maturing in sound? I'm thrilled to say with the Carpenter, it's the latter. The Carpenter blends elements from previous albums like Emotionalism, Mignonette, and I and Love and You; while at the same time bringing something different to the table - especially on tracks like Paul Newman vs. The Demons. With this album, the Avett Brothers have matured in sound to produce 12 tracks that are familiar but uniquely new; with more depth and complexity than anything previously seen from the band. The Carpenter is a phenomenal album and should deservedly receive praise as one of the best albums of 2012.
on June 11, 2013
Love the sound. Has mellow, yet upbeat music. I really enjoyed this album as the lyrics didn't all revolve around lust, romance, and that kind of garbage. This is a unique band. If you like The Head and the Heart, The Lumineers, or Of Monsters & Men, you'll probably like this band and also Trampled by Turtles.