While, not fresh to the scene The Avett Brothers’ I and Love and You pushes the trio from North Carolina into the spotlight as they have crafted, with help from legendary producer Rick Rubin, a new album of folk-pop music. The group have already released a half-dozen records and this is their second major studio release; gone are the civil war beards and upon us are the fresh faced men of Scott and Seth Avett plus bassist Bob Crawford. The concept is simple: folk music richly layered with beautiful language and instrumental arrangements ranging from twangy banjos to more piano driven pop melodies. The band has been receiving a lot of press this year, as they had extra buzz at SXSW and Rolling Stones named them as a band to watch. So why now, after several already released albums have only captured the indie audience’s attention? It seems to be in part due to the influence of producer Rubin, and the recently popularity of hymnal folk groups, like last year’s Fleet Foxes, finding a supportive audience of listeners.
“Perfect Space” is the true gem on the album, as it is both lyrically and instrumentally moving. Singer Scott grabs listeners attention when he sings, “I want friends who I can trust/that love me for the man I am/ not the man that I was” and will be hooked as the song moves into a part two the elevates the song’s intensity and reminiscent of a classic Ben Folds sound. This song seems to be the linchpin for the overarching themes of the album, which is of struggling and coming to terms with one’s own identity. This is a persistent theme that emerges throughout all the songs as with “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise” when Scott sings out, “There is a darkness that’s upon me that’s flood in light/ and I’m frightened by those that don’t see it.” It is these resonating lyrics that remain with listeners long after the song is over and spring forth a desire for several repeated listens that pull out the complexities upon which each song is crafted.
The album balances out the slow ballads against infectious pop-rock songs like “Kick Drum Heart” which flows in the veins of fellow North Carolina band The Mountain Goats. Like The Mountain Goats, the band delievers high energy power-punch and quick piano and percussion driven melodies. While the subject remains, the tone can change completely from track to track for example with the heartfelt song “Laundry Room.” This song is about a scorned lover who seems caught between letting go of a bad relationship and wanting to start again, “Last night I dreamt the whole night long/I woke with a head full of songs/ I spent the whole day/I wrote them down/but it’s a shame/tonight I’ll burn the lyrics /because every chorus has your name.” This song continues with one of the best lines throughout the album “I am a breathing time machine/I’ll take you all for a ride,” the continuum of life that is breathed into the well-crafted songwriting is highlighted throughout the musical arrangements constructed by the brothers.
Last year at this time Southern folk rockers Kings of Leon were releasing Only By The Night, which has since gone on to reach a wide audience of fans. If Kings of Leon’s success is any indicator of the year ahead for these Southern boys, then the band is only one Gossip Girl scene away featuring title track “I and Love and You” from being launched into filling arenas of adorning fans. Though, there is something almost too sincere and smart about The Avett Brothers lyrics and melodies that the mainstream audience seems to usually miss the boat. Nonetheless, this is lovely addition to the renderings of modern folk music. The late September release date for the album will provide for optimal autumn listening to songs that feel as if they fit the approaching season.