The Avett Brothers steer far away from the conventional. The North Carolina natives meld bluegrass, rock, folk and punk into a unique blend of love songs. But if there is one characteristic to sum up the sound of the Avett Brothers, it is emotion. The sheer amount of it extracted from their poetic lyrics and simple chord structures can be felt in every song. The secret behind The Avett Brothers’ highly addictive sound is just that: simplicity and beautiful poetry.
Their new album, “I and Love and You,” released Tuesday, is no exception. The album marks the first release under a major record company at Columbia Records, and producer Rick Rubin took their raw, strictly acoustic sound and honed it into something completely new to both the band and fans.
The album starts without the typical banjo, guitar and upright bass expected from the trio. Instead it begins with the title track, a soft piano ballad about a difficult journey to Brooklyn and the “Three words that became hard to say / I and Love and You.” A drum kit kicks in with a slow pop beat and brings the listener to a realization: This is an entirely new Avett Brothers sound.
The lyrical subject matter has evolved along with the sound. Seth and Scott Avett are entering a new stage in their lives as they enter their thirties and begin to delve into family life. These lyrics present a new, deeper introspection that seem to stray away from their previous whimsical love songs.
The soulful, piano-dominated “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promises” progresses from dark, cello-driven chords into a climactic feeling of hope. Scott Avett’s melodic voice sings, “When nothing is old deserved or respected / And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected / If you’re loved by someone you’re never rejected / Decide what to be and go be it.” These lyrics reach beyond a beautiful love story and into the life of a maturing man dealing with deep issues of fate and responsibility.
The new album undoubtedly embodies a more pop-driven sound. “Kick Drum Heart” sounds like an upbeat 1980s tune with American roots instrumentation, and “Tin Man” uses Beatles-esque pop melodies rather than the typical Avett Brothers folk melodies. It is evident that the change from an independent to a mainstream record company has tampered with the original Avett Brothers sound. For better or worse, it’s different.
The conclusion of “I and Love and You” gives the listener a message to ponder in “Incomplete and Insecure.” The two brothers intertwine different pitches in their voices as they sing, “What is important? What’s really important? Am I not to know by my name? / Will I ever know silence, without mental violence, will raining at night go away?” This insightful verse speaks of the struggles within our own minds and urges the listener to leave with a reflective, incomplete feeling, just as a novelist leaves room for the reader’s imagination to work at the end of a novel.
The new album’s material has been featured on the band’s latest tours and has proven to be an energetic contribution to the Avett Brothers’ already wild and rambunctious live setting. The stage is where the band shines as they take their unique blend of genres and simply go nuts. They still incorporate slower reflective songs to give the audience a chance to catch their breath, but The Avett Brothers give the crowd every bit of the same emotion and love they sing about in their songs.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Davis Brown at Brownfd@colorado.edu.