Review Summary: Decide what to be and go be it.
I believe that the Avett brothers are what initially got me opposed to illegally downloading music. I used to get piles of albums from limewire every week, give them a few listens, add a few favorite songs to my ipod, then leave the rest to collect dust in the library. Never had I loved a band so dearly before. My friend introduced me in 2007, taking me to a show in Cary, NC. The Avett Brothers quickly became my favorite band and the thought of someone freely and illegally obtaining their albums personally incensed me. I felt like it was a stab at me, as well as my brothers.
I have grown to love them dearly. They have made many sound changes, but every album maintains the same heart, the same feeling. Two southern brothers, speaking their minds about love, and life's progressions. I have never been able to listen to albums as a cohesive whole like I can to Emotionalism , The Gleam, and now this. Obviously, as every other Avett fan did, I felt scared when they moved to Columbia Records. Like many upcoming bands before them, they were presented with a chance to go big. Would they take their unconventional bluegrass soaked-punk fueled-country crooning brand of folk rock and pop it up, make it more accessible for the masses, make the big monies, and in the process losing everything that makes them individual and dear to their fans?
The album IS more accessible. Great! Their previous material was often "to country" for many, and if this will open their beauty to the masses, that is fine by me. The first song, I AND LOVE AND YOU is a noticeable departure from any previous Avett Material. It is primarily piano driven, the use of drums(new and rare only to Emotionalism) is apparent, and violin plays in the back for atmosphere. NO, this is not the same Avetts we have known. It is quite different, but it is Beautiful, and fulfilling. As always before, the lyrics are sweet, insightful, and earnest. We are introduced to something new, and God its exciting!
(When at first I learned to speak
I used all my words to fight
With him and her and you and me
Oh but its just a waste of time
Yeah its such a waste of time)
The next song, JANUARY WEDDING uproots us from our new-found Avett glory and throws us back in time; it could easily have come from Mignonette. It is the one and only song on the album featuring Scott’s Banjo. It is a solid, if slightly unremarkable song, but will distill and worries that the Avetts have given up their roots. Next is HEAD FULL OF DOUBT/ROAD FULL OF PROMISE, one of the albums best tracks. It is uplifting from the beginning. The drums take a full part in the song, displaying more complexity than previous material. Another piano driven ballad, the lyrics and vocals are phenomenal using beautiful harmonies. This song warms the heart with lyrics like....
(There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it
When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
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
There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out)
THE PERFECT SPACE is another piano ballad, starting slow and sad, that offshoots into an upbeat breakdown, showing that the Avetts have not lost any of their energy. They shout, harmonize, and make another incredible song, easing off into a soft ending. Organs are used in the background throughout the album creating a fantastic atmosphere. TEN THOUSAND YEARS is another song that takes us backwards into Avett history. It feels somewhat like The Weight of Lies from Emotionalism. The song is solely acoustic guitar parts. The Avetts signature and phenomenal guitar picking is center stage with the vocals on this on, showing off more guitar ability than anything since Mignonette. It's one of the Albums best songs with another set of great lyrics.
(And everyone around me shakes their head in disbelief
And says i'm too caught up
They say young is good and old is fine
And truth is cool but all that matters
Is that you have your good times
But their good times come with prices
And i can't believe it when i hear the jokes they make
At anyone's expense except their own
Would they laugh if they knew who paid?
Ain't it like most people? i'm no different
We love to talk on things we don't know about)
The positive nature and lack of expletives in the Avett Brothers music has always been highly refreshing to me; this music is earnest and pure. KICK DRUM HEART is the most fun song on the album. It is upbeat, poppy, driven by the piano and the drums, and full of energy. Just as good and similar to Die Die Die or Will You Return? from Emotionalism, it is a great song to sing along to and dance. Great energy and Avett Yells make it a gem to listen to and the Chorus (MY, My, Heart like a kickdrum) KICK KICK KICK KICK KICK KICK(Of the bass drum) it is a lot of fun. It Falls out with the heartbeat created by the bass drum. LAUNDRY ROOM, TIN MAN, and ILL WITH WANT are all great songs as well. Look out for the rockin bluegrass breakdown at the end of TIN MAN.
My only real gripe with this album are the ending tracks especially SLIGHT FIGURE OF SPEECH and IT GOES ON AND ON. They dont feel authentic, and don’t mesh with the rest of the album. They are the two weakest tracks respectively, seemingly aiming for a pop audience. They are not bad tracks, there is just nothing special here, and the seamlessly flowing cohesion of the rest of the album is somewhat damaged. It ends with INCOMPLETE AND INSECURE, partially lifting the quality again. Frustratingly, the track just drops off, and the album ends anticlimactically, leaving the listener yearning for something else, something more wholesome. Oh, and I wouldn’t have minded a little more banjo.
I and Love and You is special in that it shows the Avetts newly reformed sound, but does not move away from their roots and previous work. We have completely new endeavors coupled with songs in the styles of old, all flowing together flawlessly, bringing something totally unique. The new direction they are moving in is quite a change(but great!), but they do not fully digress from their previous sounds. I assure you, the Avett Brothers are still here in heart and soul. They have produced yet another beautifully listenable album, and God willing, they won’t stop any time soon.
I and Love and you is a phenomenal album, different as it may be. I can't wait for the next one :)
Head Full of Doubt/ Road Full of Promise
The Perfect Space
Ten Thousand Words
Kick Drum Heart