I learn about new music (i.e., music made since 1999) from one of three sources: My spouse, NPR, or the local college radio station.
In the case of The Avett Brothers, I first heard their music on WERS, the Emerson College radio station that just barely comes in where I live. I can listen to it only in my car because it won’t come in inside my house.
I heard their song “February Seven” several times on the radio and really enjoyed it. I remembered the title of the song because it’s my mom’s birthday. (They’re also from the town in North Carolina where my mom graduated high school, which seemed kind of like a sign. And Scott Avett was born the same year I was! How’s that for a sign?) I initially decided to check out the album it’s on—The Carpenter—from my library because I thought maybe I’d buy it for my mom’s next birthday. After listening to the lyrics a few more times, I’ve decided against sending it to my mom, but I’m still glad I picked up the album.
Everyone in my family enjoys listening to it, which is something of a rarity. I admit, usually I’m the limiting factor. My kids enjoy listening to Led Zeppelin with their dad, while I only tolerate it. The kids actively request Vampire Weekend, and my spouse is happy to oblige…when I’m not in the car. And while I know that my spouse plays AC/DC for the kids, I choose to ignore that reality.
But we can all agree on The Avett Brothers.
Except for two songs towards the end of the album, the songs on this album have a rolling folk-music feel, with the addition of a cello or a saw (which I thought at first was a theremin) that adds a bit of surprise and a richness that I really like.
“February Seven” is still my favorite, with its dark but hopeful lyrics. My daughter and I sing along with it together.
I also love the first track on the album, “The Once and Future Carpenter.” The lyrics reflect my habit of moving from here to there every few years.
Forever I will move
Like the world that turns beneath me
And when I lose my direction
I look up to the sky
And when the black dress drags upon the ground
I’ll be ready to surrender
And remember we’re all in this together
If I live the life I’m given I won’t be scared to die
My spouse was a little surprised that I like the album so much since the lyrics can be a little cliched and almost cheesy; usually I have a very low tolerance for cheesiness. But there’s something about this I don’t mind. There’s a special place in my heart for cheese, if the music underneath it works. Pleasant vocals, nice harmonies, and that cello just really work for me.
“Winter in My Heart” is a song of especially cheesy lyrics, but, while I wouldn’t say it’s an objectively great song, I find myself singing it to myself on my dark and frigid morning walks around the neighborhood, where it’s actually more winter outside and and spring or summer in my heart, so I’m not really sure why the song comes to mind so often. I think the rhythm of the words and the sing-song way they sing the line, “They say flowers bloom in spring,” really appeals to me.
Another favorite of mine is “A Father’s First Spring,” which appears to be about the way a father feels after his first child is born.
When I’m in the sweet daughter’s eyes
My heart is now ruined for the rest of all time
There’s no part of it left to give
I feel a lot of license to interpret songs however I want to, regardless of what the lyricist intends, but this really sounds like a new parent to me. The lyrics pretty much nail the way it feels to love someone so deeply and thoroughly, to surrender one’s heart to a being in a way that’s totally new and unexpected, no matter how much you’ve anticipated it.
And “Down with the Shine” could just about be the theme song for my blog. “Down with the shine, the perfect shine/That poisons the well, and ruins my mind”. Sing it, Avett Brothers.
The Avett Brothers released a new album last month called Magpie and the Dandelion. I’ve heard one track from the new album—“Another is Waiting”—and it sounds pretty good. The song reminds me a little of a band from the 90’s, but I’m not sure who. I think I’ll be picking up the album soon to hear some more. And who knows…maybe if they do a show nearby, I’ll try to see them live, even though I have mixed feelings about going to see live music. But that’s a topic for another post.