Weekly Download Vol. III No. 47

Down with the Shine by The Avett Brothers (7.0) (N.B. Live cut, best I could do)

I moderately anticipated The Avett Brothers’ new album. I have a couple of friends who are huge fans, one who historically has had middling to excellent taste in music, and another who (other than the Avetts) has possibly the worst taste in music of any human on this planet. I’m talking Jason Aldean/Kenny Chesney bad. (I.Y.I. This reminds me of debate he and I have had repeatedly when we’re in my car, and I’m spinning killer jams (N.B. Japandroids most recently), and he gets ready to stick his head out the window in an effort to avoid “this fucking garbage.” This, of course, leads me to counter that the swill he listens to (N.B. again besides the Avetts) is “mass-produced Nashville crap for which some barely competent lawmaker should author a constitutional amendment forbidding.” To which he responds that sonic excrement like Dirt Road Anthem and The Good Stuff are “clearly fantastic because they are popular, everyone listens to them, and you can hear them on the radio whenever you want,” and the music WD listens to no one has ever heard of before because it’s “fucking horrible.” To which I respond “by that argument McDonalds has the best food in the world, you fucking moron!” To which he responds “that’s not even close to the same thing. You are a fucking idiot.” To which I respond “you are fucking a idiot and your nose is big and my wife secretly laughs at you after you leave our house when we invite you over for dinner.” To which he responds “that’s not what she was doing when I fathered your “son”” (with finger quotes). To which I respond “fuck you,” and to which he responds “no, fuck you.”) So this gave me some reservations about diving headfirst into the Avetts’ new album, but after said friend agreed to split the costs with me (which he paid back with two $2 bills and a Sacajawea) (N.B. and yes, I downloaded it from the mothership instead of patronizing Guestroom. I’m sorry), it ended up in my CD player.

Moderate anticipation warranted.

Background: The Avetts are brothers (smirk) from somewhere east of the 405, surely. Their last album, I and Love and You, bordered on great. It was melodic and poignant, and generally easy on the ears in a familiar, but not staid, folksy/medium-rock way. Try this.

It would be lazy of me to say the new album, The Carpenter, (N.B. Which includes the track, Once and Future Carpenter (N.B. Some serious biblical imagery/allegories in that, huh?)) is equally as pretty. Because it’s different than that. You listen to it once, and you realize you want to hug it…hug it like it’s a chubby girl softly crying because some jerk called her fat, and you just want to comfort her. (N.B. Thank you female readers for sticking it out as long as you have. You’re absolved from ever reading this filth again. I’m sorry that specific metaphor was the first image that came to mind, but at least appreciate my honesty for not backing away from it.) After you hug her, you realize she’s a witty and articulate gal and not only was the jerk who called her fat a super asshole, but you were also for assuming she couldn’t possibly possess such charming qualities…

Sometimes the album is a little saccharine, but forgivably so. It all sneakily builds toward the penultimate track where the Bros. try and bring the hammer with the awesomely titled Paul Newman v. The Demons. I like the song, (N.B. even more since after his first listen, asshole buddy from above told me how terrible he thought it was) and maybe I understand what they’re trying to do with it, but given everything else around it, it feels a bit forced, certainly not as rubber to the road good as Down with the Shine, and not what they excel at. But it took a stone or two, in an album full of songs like the WD, to dip into some latent post-grunge, stomp on a kick-drum, and flirt with an electric guitar. I commend them for that.

But ultimately, The Carpenter is a pretty folk album that may try (even half-heartedly) to be more than it is. Which is a shame, because what it is is a good listen. What it’s not is a great one, no matter how witty and articulate they want it to sound.


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4 Responses to Weekly Download Vol. III No. 47

  1. GSL says:

    I don’t have a blog, but if I did, I would have written this review a little differently.
    7.0?! Come. On.
    Reasons The Carpenter deserves a 9.0+ on WD Rating Scale:
    1) Down with the Shine is surprisingly not about moonshine. Instead, it is about our (society/women-turning-34-who-are-baffled-when-students-call-us-“Ma’m/real housewives of Orange County) fixation with staying young. Listen to the lyrics, who the hell rights like that? For sure not 20-something bearded men wearing skinny jeans. So incisive, so true. I dare you not to watch this for his explanation of why he wrote it and NOT be a little moved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVpOvZW3Aik The only other person writing lyrics like this right now–the sentient ones without a shade of narcissism but with all of the empathy for their fellow humans who can pen what they observe with such ice-cold precision to make us feel and resonate–is James Mercer. Take note if you want sustainable performance, LCD soundsystem/Japandroids/Foster the People/Silversun Pickups or whatever flavor-of-the-hipster month it is in the 20-somethings spotify list. Synthesizers and sartorial selections from the 80s will only take you so far for so long…

    2) A Father’s First Spring makes even me want more babies. While, as a principle, I hate all songs about babies and kids (and puppies or butterflies…bah humbug), even I can get behind this one. I listen to it every time I pull into my neighborhood after a long workday away from the munchkins. I dare you to play this while you look at pictures of you and your wife holding Gabe in the very early days (and I know there must be a million of those, you + iphone + baby = 1,307 pictures in month one, I bet). You will feel all of those emotions you felt for Gabe all over again. Missing him the first day you went to work (“I have been homesick for you since we met…”): Check. Seeing the world as a man and not a boy (“I was a child before the day that I met Elanor [Gabe/Kate]”) . Realizing that life becomes way more meaningful with a child, you have never loved anything like them and you never will, (“I do not live lest I live in your light.”): Check. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDjE8ARw8ps

    3) Once and future carpenter makes those of us who have tenuously grasped at a belief system finally feel it is within reach. Drink a Jameson with just a few rocks, sit in your car or a room alone (for Chistsake don’t actually drive), and at minute 3 of this song, turn it up real loud. Specifically, if you don’t feel Jesus, God, or Buddha in the room at 3:44, I am not sure what to tell you. They do something real different here with the bass, drums and cello thrumming synchronously and he just starts yelling so passionately at you (us) to listen for him. Promise, he (or she) is there. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihf9A9g6pck

    4) They harmonize like only two people who have been singing their whole lives together can. I didn’t fully appreciate this until I saw them live and realized they actually alternate who takes the high or low end of his register on a given lyric. Watch my favorite from them to see it in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPbP9iIc9os (“I wonder which brother is better? I love you and I am proud of you both in so many different ways…Nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name”…lyrical poetry).

    5) Shamelessly stolen Beatles chords and cadences:

    • TMatt says:

      You don’t have a blog… anymore.

      Moderately swayed. The guys can sing. They really can. The lyrics are eloquent and super incisive…diary reading…or platitude barfing. If James Mercer is your baseline…then I get it. (N.B. Foster the People and Silversun Pickups are essentially vomit. But LCD Soundsystem a/k/a James Murphy (Mercer/Shins familiar?) is a 42 year old scruffy white guy record store dork who put a bunch of sounds and beats together he liked and made career out of it such that he was able to end this career at its very apex with a sold out show at Madison Square Garden. Like or don’t like his music, but don’t lump him in with the group of people you assume listen to Foster the People/SSPs. Japandroids…agree to disagree, but you’re wrong. ☺)

      But as to The Avetts and this album in particular, put a fun song in there for Christ sake. Vic Chesnutt was in a wheelchair, and (before he committed suicide) he could at lease parody himself with Little Fucker.

      Aside from their obsession with tender feelings and their strapping good looks, the Avetts are obsessed with sad and death and cold.
      (The Once and Future Carpenter) “If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.” (N.B. I may be dense, but this comes across like more of a karmic rambler’s lament to me.)

      (Live and Die) “You and I we’re the same / Live and Die we’re the same.”

      (Winter in my Heart) “It must be winter in my heart / there’s nothing warm in here at all.”

      (Pretty Girl from Michigan) “There’ll be no word from you describing how it felt to go through what I put you through” (Ridiculously good line for a break up song)

      (I Never Knew You) – I really like this song, no complaints.

      (February Seven) “I went on the search for something true. I was almost there when I found you. Sooner then my fate was wrote. Perfectly it slit my throat.”

      (Through my Prayers) “Feels like no one understands / And my only chance / To talk to you is through my prayers / I only wanted to tell you I cared.”

      (N.B. Five of the first seven songs were engineered to either make you cry, or to let you know they are crying.)

      (Down with the Shine) I really like this song, but “out goes the warmth, and in comes the cold”

      (A Father’s First Spring) – You make an unfair play at my emotions here…this is a really good song. You’re right.

      (Geraldine) “I’m a fool for treating her alive / and loving something cold and rocky”

      (Paul Newman v. Demons) I really like this song too.

      (Life) “Gone with cold world / spoke upon hers / Wretched in the / tongue of their world / we’re not of that world at all / we will never be”

      Could they have one song with lines like:
      “Remember that night you were already in bed, said “fuck it” got up to drink with me instead?!!!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Az3Wo6_aRFM


      “Hitchhiked to hell and back riding the wind / waiting for a generation’s bon fire to begin!!!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXw00wHYv0s

      It’s supposed to be fun, at least some of the time. Right? The Japandroids get it…The Avetts are sad…. Incisive, eloquent, and talented…but sad. I just want to give them hugs, and talk about their feelings…but not party with them, because they’re a little too serious.

      Revised WD score 7.8

      Thanks for reading.

  2. TMatt says:

    Commencing dubious re-listen w/ Jameson

  3. GSL says:

    Wow, that was an Avett-worthy WD. Sorry to call out LCD, just miffed that a resounding “10” was awarded to them the week after Scott and Seth were robbed. Two items: 1) Avetts are short and have dark hair and beards. I tried that only once and it was disastrous; have been “meh” about such smolder looks since. So please don’t trivialize-attribute my ridiculous levels of adoration to their “good look.” 2) you want happy? Who are you?!?!:) listen to kick drum heart from last record, and try not to smile:)

    Thanks for writing.

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