Go and give it a listen before reading on — my first listen review, below, might spoil some of the fun musical surprises they included on this album.
I'd like to start by thanking the band for this album. It's such a gift, especially considering their last album, The Carpenter came out just 13 months ago. Although this album isn't my all-time favorite album (it switches between Emotionalism and Mignonette depending on my mood) there are some real gems on it.
Because I'm a die-hard Avett Brothers fan (and the admin of this site) I've heard all but two of these songs by now so there were no real surprises on my first listen. The two I hadn't heard before — "Bring Your Love To Me" and "Good To You" — are more of their slow and personal songs but with great catchy riffs and bridges. I'm sure I'll grow to appreciate them but for now they seem slightly awkwardly wordy. The solo by Bob Crawford in "Good To You" was a nice treat — his vocals are slightly underutilized in most of their album. But then again I'm the kind of Avett fan who loves "The Day That Marvin Gaye Died."
As for the songs I've only seen on YouTube or performed for radio stations — I'm really really thrilled by "Open Ended Life" and "Morning Song". Both of them are grand, sweeping songs that make full use of their entire band. While "Open Ended Life" strays slightly more into the country genre that the Avetts often toe I know this will be one of the songs I frequently scream-sing in my car or in the shower. The banjo, harmonica, and electric guitar solo in the middle is so much fun. I've loved "Morning Song" ever since I heard them play at Red Rocks in July of this year. The chorus at the end was an incredibly delightful surprise. It's one of the best parts of the song to sing, after all.
I've had a YouTube rip of "Never Been Alive" for over a year now and it's still one of those songs that I'm not crazy about. I think it's the emotional disconnect between the lyrics and the tempo — the words are joyful but the tune is somber. They've been playing this at their concerts since 2009 and since I'm seeing the band three times over the next four days (in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, then San Francisco) maybe a live rendition will get me to love it. It seems that I have a new "top favorite" Avett song after every show of theirs I see.
The Brothers have been promoting the new album with "Another is Waiting" and "Vanity" as their two singles and they're just phenomenal (and unfortunately short.) The extended solo by Scott that was played on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon a few weeks ago was great – I hope that's the extended Demo version on the deluxe edition.
"Apart From Me" is more mellow than I wished it'd be. I liked the version they played on The Current earlier this summer. It's still a great song. "Skin and Bones" makes up for it by being livelier tune. It's one of the strongest tracks on the album.
"Souls Like the Wheels" is slightly disappointing since it is just a live version. It originally appeared on 2008's The Second Gleam and although I love the song I was hoping this version would be a re-imagining now that the band has Joe Kwon, Mike Marsh, and Paul DeFiglia to give their song a fuller sound. Anybody have any idea what show this was recorded from?
Because I'm a dork I've managed to track down a digital transfer of the track "The Clearness is Gone" form the exclusive "Live and Die" 7" that came bundled with The Carpenter deluxe box set last year. I love love love the song (it's one of my most listened-to iTunes tracks of all time) and I'm ecstatic that the rest of the world gets to hear it now and the Brothers may play it at their live shows.
11 songs, all of them amazing in their own right. What do you think of their new songs? Any new instant favorites?
Don't forget to preorder Magpie and the Dandelion!