three words that became hard to say

28Oct09
A few weeks ago, I decided to text Lis a late-night plea for advice: The Avett Brothers’ I and Love and You or David Bazan’s Curse Your Branches? They each had something going for them: Bazan’s new album has the fabulous “Harmless Sparks” and the Avett Brothers’ title track had popped up on the radio a few times, really catching my ear.

She recommended Bazan, but in the end, when I got to Grimey’s and did a test-listen of each album, the Avett Brothers, in addition to catching my ear, really captured my heart.

The album comes, not with liner notes, but with a 500-word “mission statement” from Seth Avett, which, if you can squint enough to read the tiny type, is well worth the effort. It’s a sweet precursor to the love songs contained inside. And if I’m honest, it made me a little weepy when I’d finished reading it. (A good indication of the album’s quality, in my opinion. And I wasn’t let-down.)

The title track, and ablum opener, “I and Love and You” is slow and steady, with an almost Beatles-esque piano/percussion combination, and vocal harmonies as discordant and lovely as the sounds of the city to which the refrain refers: “Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in.”

With a title like I and Love and You, it’s obvious that the theme of the album would be love, and while songs like “January Wedding” and “Kick Drum Heart” are endearing for their plodding banjos and heavy percussion respectively, for me, the most beautiful and truly stand-out tracks are the ones that don’t deal with love, but instead refer to the insecurities and uncertainties of life.

“Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” is easily the best track on the album. It’s got everything: pianos, strings, full, throaty vocals, and stellar lyrics. Another standout, “The Perfect Space”, is a quirky punk rock anthem sandwiched between two slices of a lonely and uncertain melody. The combination is better than a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich, and the punk rock filling lends a little lightness to an album that borders almost on depressive.

“Ill With Want”, “Tin Man”, and “Incomplete and Insecure” round out the album nicely, splicing the second half’s love songs with little doses of confusion, introspection, and obviously, insecurity.

The album’s shifts are unsubtle, but I don’t know if that’s a problem. Most of the songs transition illogically or abruptly into the next song, with little room for digestion in between. It’s less an album to be played front-to-back than it is to be shuffled and skipped. I don’t ever like to say a song is annoying if I really love the band or love the album, but a couple of I and Love and You‘s tracks really take away from the magic of the rest.

All-in-all, it’s a solid album from a band I’d been unfamiliar with until about a month ago. After my first few listens, I liked their sound enough to seek out the rest of their discography, and I’m slowly getting to know their decade’s worth of tunes. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover the Avett Brothers early enough to secure tickets to their Halloween night gig at the Ryman. It’s been sold out for weeks, Craigslist posters won’t respond to my emails, and I’ve been out-bid on eBay a few times.

You can listen to the title track here and I highly recommend it.

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