Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Avett Brothers: A gateway drug

Without fail after I start either of our vehicles, if my wife has driven last, country will be on the radio. That's just how it is. Infuriating.

Before I get too deep into this post let me set the foundation with some historical info on me: I love music from zydeco to classical to dubstep to indy. All* types, shapes, sizes, ranges, genres (*expressly excluding country of all types, shapes, sizes, twangs.....). Ok, setting set. Maybe it's a cultural thing or misunderstanding...maybe my dislike steams from the very rational fear that a Toby Keith-ish man or woman could run this country (*shiver*). Aaaaaand that is as political as I will let this blog get, promise.

Fast forwarding to only a few months ago, several friends were discussing the Avett Brothers; somewhat in the dark on what their sound was, I dug in. iTunes quickly schooled me on all things Avett (ok, maybe "dug in" was too strong. To steal a reference from Jim Gaffigan [comedic genious], my research project took about as long as it takes for your order to appear at a Chinese food restaurant ...*opens menu* "I will have.....[food presented]......and here it is."). iTunes has its flaws and classifications is one of them, case and point: the Avett brothers are not "rock".  In fairness, they are described as "Alt-country" which I will accept for lack of a better term at the moment.  [Let me be clear.  I am not saying the Avett Brothers are country; they are not.]  I have to admit that the mention of "country" however in the description made me wince.  What I am about to write, I regret doing...I made a mistake.  Clicking the triangle-play button, I listened. Sadly I picked the wrong track (don't recall now which one, but it was a deeper cut, mistake No. 1).  I honestly didn't give it more than 30 seconds and said "nahhh" (mistake No. 2).

Fast forwarding further to a few week or two ago, another friend posted a video of the Avett Brothers live on FB (thanks Nirsh), it was Laundry Room and I was instantly and inexplicably hooked...dangerously teetering on disobeying a core music value that I've had for as long as I can remember protesting against anything country...which it's not...but it is reminiscent of country.  I love a fat kid [Greg] loves cake *swallows cake*.

Why I was an instant fan the second time is not easily explained. Maybe it was just me.  But the album I and Love and You is one of those albums that you plant in your rotation, water, listen, and it will grow on you (caution on actually watering your iPod).  There's a learning curve to new and different music like anything else.  Frankly, I think Mumford & Sons paved the way a bit for me personally.  Again, while Mumford is also NOT country it has country tones, a killer kick drum (ironically also part of the name of an Avett Brothers song), and a fun but not annoying banjo.

I'm not going to begin to review each of the tracks. Nope.  I will make a few observations.  First, generally, there are albums that have tracks that can stand on their own.  For example, Pearl Jam's Ten: Black isn't improved by Alive or Once, but each of the tracks can stand on their own.  A more up to date reference would be Jack Johnson's In Between Dreams.  All songs are great, but they don't want for one another. Then there are albums that should be enjoyed all at once, like The Street's A Grand Don't Come for Free.  The tracks build on one another, and in this case, actually tell a story, a pretty funny story too if you can decipher his rough English accent.  Another example is Interpol's Our Love to Admire, a favorite band of mine, but they have better albums (Turn on the Bright Lights is a must check).  The Avett Brothers fall squarely in the middle here.  I think the tracks and album is improved by listening to it all at once rather than selecting tracks and playing them randomly; however, ANY track on this album can stand on its own.  No question.

Avett Brothers remind me in alot of ways of Ben Folds, with our without his Five.  They also sound like a more obsure band called the Pat McGee Band (a more pop than alt-country college band).  Avett Brothers are certainly unique and different enough to be hard to classify (if that's what you are into).  Strangely, Ten Thousand Words, reminds me so much of Nirvana Unplugged...Jesus Doesn't want me for a Sunbeam (seriously, listen to them side by side).

Bringing this full circle, they do present a scary gateway into that genre that shall go unmentioned.  I don't think I will ever be a fan of country, but projects like the Avett Brothers and Mumford, and their progeny, make me ask myself how far will I let this go [don't answer Greg, it's a trap].  As long as I don't ever end up camping out to wait in line for Kenny Chesney tickets, I think I am safe.  So bring on the wife will be sooo happy.

"Join me next time" when I plan to discuss my 3 year old's favorite Vampire Weekend track: Horchata, or as she calls it "Horpchopta"

Some favorite lyrics and tracks on I and Love and You:

"I want to have pride, like my mother has, and not like the kind in the Bible that turns you bad." - Ten Thousand Words

"I haven't finished a thing since I started my life, I don't feel much like starting now" - Incomplete and Insecure

"Keep your clothes on, I've got all that I can take" - Landry Room

           The Avett Brothers: I and Love and You


  1. Rock solid, Greg. I couldn't agree more with your write up of I And Love And You. It's in my all-the-time rotation, I love it when it comes on shuffle, and sometimes it's the only full album that suits my mood. I see Avett Brothers as alt-country in the same way that Wilco and Phosphorescent are considered alt-country. They aren't country, they definitely rock, but they aren't quite rock. The Many of my favorite bands fall into this weird and huge "alt-country" genre - The Decemberists, Neko Case, and Iron and Wine being three immediate stand outs - but I have similar feelings to yours on what's classified as straight up country. I just can't get my head around the popularity of songs about tractors and big red cups.
    Now, that being said, I do live in Virginia now, and it is not as easy to escape country as it is in New England. There are some performers that I've warmed up to just a little bit, although I would never pay to buy their CD or go to a concert. One of my goals for my music project is to listen to some of the classic country performers to see if I can find the musical and lyrical roots to some of the bands that I love so much - Dolly Parton, John Denver, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn are all on the list.
    And finally, your name doesn't pop up as a Spotify user. You need to change that today. It will change your life.

  2. I prefer pop bluegrass to alt-country, makes me feel better about myself...

  3. Or...folk country rock. I first discovered avett bros on Grammys. I was a little late, but I've caught up. Have 3 of their albums and saw them live inchicago. They're one of my favorite new bands. Nice blog Ramsey. A year or two ago you said you were too old for Facebook. Now your fb'ng, tweeting and blogging. Social media guru.