The Avett Brothers new album, The Carpenter, is the latest in their collection of melodic, soulful songs that remain completely recognizable in an industry saturated with similarly talented but more mainstream acts (see: Mumford & Sons.)
With their sixth album they continue to push the boundaries of their emotionalism while immersing themselves in so many different musical styles (the soft and pretty folk of “The Once and Future Carpenter” and “February Seven;” the upbeat acoustic pop of “Live and Die;” the early Beatles style of “Pretty Girl from Michigan”) that it has become clear that the band is both versatile and incredibly talented enough to pull of multiple genres without ever seeming too forced; The Avett Brothers have certainly revealed themselves as one of the special kind of bands who can try new things and reach out to a wide audience without completely alienating their extremely loyal fan base.
Released on September 11, The Carpenter is a study of opposites — inspired by very heavy subjects including bassist Bob Crawford’s two-year-old daughter’s battle with a brain tumor, there are many slower and more somber tracks scattered throughout the album including “Through my Prayers” which features the lines “It feels like no one understands / And now my only chance / to talk to you is through my prayers / I only wanted to tell you I care.” It is in these more contemplative tracks that this album compares most to past work from the band (think “I and Love and You” and “Murder in the City) but The Carpenter also embraces, and really shines in, their more upbeat and hopeful moments.
The aforementioned “Live and Die” is a gloriously happy, harmony busting song that features the simple yet moving chorus “You and I, we’re the same / Live and die, we’re the same.” Arguably one of the strongest and most memorable tracks on the album, it has already been featured in a Gap ad campaign — the true mark of success? Perhaps. Also keep an ear out for the gangly “Geraldine,” whose lyrics are reminiscent of The Black Keys and “I Never Knew You” with the tongue-in-cheek story of long-over love featuring the cutting yet humorous hook “You say I wouldn’t know you now / Well I didn’t even know you then” which is destined to become a break-up anthem for the hipster set. “Paul Newman vs. The Demons” utilizes pounding drums and electric guitar riffs, paired with some angst-filled lyrics (“You may have to drag me away from my demons / Kicking and screaming / It’s been so long now I’ve been with them / Don’t know where they stop and I begin”) and, at times, a decidedly Kurt Cobain style of vocals — making for a slightly jarring, but incredibly well executed new sound for the band.
This album has been long-anticipated (their last full-length release, I and Love and You, came out back in 2009) and Scott and Seth Avett have not disappointed. Full of beautiful harmonies, smart lyrics and moving melodies, The Carpenter is sure to excite loyal fans and garner a whole gaggle of new ones. What is especially comforting and refreshing about this album is that, despite their growing popularity, the band has stuck closely to their down-home, heart on your sleeve, robust style of creating music that makes them one of the most authentic and unique acts on the scene right now. The Avett Brothers don’t have to prove to us that they’re alive; their set of incredible new songs was proof enough.
Kerri Jarema is the creator and editor of Lydia Magazine. She was born and raised in New York City and still calls it home. When she isn’t busy writing and editing she can usually be found with her nose in a book, watching way too much TV, fangirling on Tumblr, singing very loud when no one is around, obsessing over everything British and exploring her favorite neighborhoods. Find her on Twitter@kerrajar.