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Avett Brothers, The - The Carpenter Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7.5
Musicianship 7.5
Lyrics 7.5
Production 7.5
Creativity 7.5
Lasting Value 7.5
Reviewer Tilt 7.5
Final Verdict: 75%
Member Ratings
Vocals 10
Musicianship 10
Lyrics 10
Production 10
Creativity 10
Lasting Value 10
Reviewer Tilt 10
Average: 100%

Avett Brothers, The - The Carpenter

Reviewed by: Jeremy Aaron (09/11/12)
The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
Record Label: Republic
Release Date: September 11, 2012

The Avett Brothers are at what seems to be a strange place in their career if The Carpenter is any indication. Their catalog is stuffed with albums you feel like you can claim for your very own, even though everyone else can too. Their songs are inviting like a warm fireplace and big plate of chicken and dumplings, just like grandma used to make. Their dusty Americana aesthetic and open heart-on-sleeve honesty would have played well to audiences fifty years ago and will probably make sense to people fifty years down the road. And with a wall-to-wall spectacular major label record behind them, the bandwagon has grown considerably. I got the opportunity to check out their highly praised live show for the first time back in June, amid a shifting sea of humanity crowding in front of Bonnaroo's main stage, the same stage Radiohead would grace a short while later. Honestly, I found myself feeling a little empty from the experience. The tension of the band formerly, and fittingly, known as the Nemo Back Porch Project uncomfortably playing the part of huge stage draw was palpable then, and it definitely makes its mark at times on The Carpenter was well.

Granted, The Carpenter provides plenty for fans new and old to be happy about. The opener "The Once and Future Carpenter" is the sort of polished and hooky mid-tempo song that I and Love and You boasted by the bushel and "Live and Die", all banjo and bright, lively harmonies, is an instant Avett Brothers classic. On "Pretty Girl From Michigan", they add their own flavor to a starry-eyed early-'60s prom-pop melody, with the initially startling addition of some lo-fi guitar fuzz. It probably shouldn't work, and it will put off the purists for sure, but to the extent that it accentuates the song's playful feel, it brings a satisfying (at least in this case) new dimension to the band's sound. And then there's "February Seven", a gorgeous piano-and-string ballad that's so charming I doubt anyone would complain even if every song on the album sounded just like it.

Regardless of what stylistic dalliances they're entertaining, The Avett Brothers are consistently at their best when they sound loose and natural, which is a good thing, because that's pretty much their default setting, and until now, it rarely ever changed. Unfortunately, it's not always the case on The Carpenter. Without question, anyone hoping to fully appreciate an Avett Brothers album would have to be open to a little heartstring tugging. After all, these dudes recorded an album called Emotionalism. However, I feel like even someone who teared up with joy for the protagonist of "January Wedding" would have a tough time suppressing an eyeroll and thoughts like "It takes real effort to make something this drowsy and saccharine" when presented with offerings like "Winter in My Heart" and "Through My Prayers". At the opposite end of the spectrum is the absolute trainwreck "Paul Newman vs. the Demons", which seems like it's trying to rock out with a guitar track that sounds like something from Baroness's new album. The Avetts' shining vocals layered on top sound utterly ridiculous. Whether it's an attempt at a ground-shaking festival romp or simply evidence that Rick Rubin wasn't quite able to stay hands-off for two albums in a row, it very clearly was not a good idea.

What we're left with is an album that sounds like something of an identity crisis. It's far from a total loss and there is much here that is definitely worth revisiting in that old reliable Avett Brothers sort of way. But there's a sterility and ham-handedness-- the type many probably feared would pop up in I and Love and You-- that sneaks its way in here and there, and as a result, The Carpenter lacks the consistency and continuity we've come to expect from the Bros. Still, it's hard to feel too badly about it when I can sit here and listen to the toe-tapping banjo plucks and stately horn swells of the pretty perfect "Down With the Shine" and sing along ten or twelve times in a row and probably enjoy that as much as any other album this year.

Track Listing1. The Once and Future Carpenter
2. Live and Die
3. Winter in My Heart
4. Pretty Girl From Michigan
5. I Never Knew You
6. February Seven
7. Through My Prayers
8. Down With the Shine
9. A Father's First Spring
10. Geraldine
11. Paul Newman vs. the Demons
12. Life


Preview/Buy the album at Amazon MP3.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 24
05:25 PM on 09/11/12
#2
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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I blame Rick Rubin.
12:25 AM on 09/12/12
#3
AReiss
Coffee & Cigarettes Clothing Co.
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Huh. I really really enjoyed this album and actually found it to be more interesting than I and Love and You. But then again, I just really enjoy the Avett Brothers. To each his/her own.
12:25 AM on 09/12/12
#4
DooDooBird
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No offense, but that review is terrible.
12:41 AM on 09/12/12
#5
OurLadyCoolbean
False. Black bears.
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No offense, but that review is terrible.
Sounds just a tad offensive to me
03:09 AM on 09/12/12
#6
Jeremy Aaron
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05:56 AM on 09/12/12
#7
Sikbeat37
You like music too? Woah.
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Dude, Paul Newman is an awesome song. I love when musicians step out of their comfort zones. I don't know, I think it was successful. A little harsh on the album overall, methinks.

Full disclosure: I'm a sucker for heavy music with layered group vocals (see: Baroness).
07:03 AM on 09/12/12
#8
Jordachejeans91
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I really love Winter in my heart, so far thats my favorite on the album a few times through
07:05 AM on 09/12/12
#9
jdr277
I got a lion in my pocket I'm lying
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Huh. I really really enjoyed this album and actually found it to be more interesting than I and Love and You. But then again, I just really enjoy the Avett Brothers. To each his/her own.
I just got into TAB right after they released I and Love and You, and I agree with you completely. I love this new album! Even though it's not a very cohesive album, the songs are still great on their own.
07:07 AM on 09/12/12
markyconnolly
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the whole records sweet i love this band so much
07:46 AM on 09/12/12
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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I just got into TAB right after they released I and Love and You, and I agree with you completely. I love this new album! Even though it's not a very cohesive album, the songs are still great on their own.
A lack of cohesion is tough for me to get into.
10:59 AM on 09/12/12
Blake Solomon
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yeah idk, only heard this once. first track was my favorite. need more time, and hope this is good, as i have been one of their most faithful of fans these past 6 or so years. but idk, all of the people i respect to review this album have said the same, disappointed thing.
04:04 PM on 09/12/12
bladerdude360
saved latin. What did you ever do?
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Love everything these guys do, but agree that some songs, while still good, stick out a little. No mention of the last track in the review, which I think is absolutely beautiful.
04:05 PM on 09/12/12
relientkid777
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I understand this website's bias, but LOL. The fact that the new Yellowcard album received a 95% while this record receives a 75% is absolutely laughable.
07:14 PM on 09/12/12
cmark88
King of the Wild Frontier
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liking it more the more I listen to it. It certainly won't win them any new fans, but I think it's a pleasurable album overall, with a bit of a more somber tone compared to their previous two. Also, if you have a Target near by, buy the album there, because it's only $10 and comes with two bonus tracks, including one of the better tracks on the album 'Die Then Grow', a good a 6 minute long romp
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