As a fan of the Avett Brothers, I have been following their career for a while now. They’ve got the folk-rock combination down pat and their eighth studio album,Magpie and the Dandelion, is a great addition to their already impressive repertoire. The latest venture for the North Carolina trio stands in stark contrast to last year’s Grammy-nominated album, The Carpenter, which was more serious and cynical.
The album opens with “Open Ended Life,” an upbeat and hopeful tune that features an impressive harmonica solo that no doubt brings to mind the childlike quality the band was aiming for. Channeling their pop side, it’s a fun way for the Avett Brothers to kick off the 15-song album, which includes demo tracks. The first single is “Another Is Waiting,” which features bluegrass influences and the classic Avett Brothers lyrical choices that seem hokey but somehow always fit the array of both traditional and unexpected instrument pairings. Midway through, the album takes a more somber turn with “Apart From Me,” a gorgeous acoustic number that reflects on an ended relationship and its lasting effects.
Whether upbeat and more pop or dour and more bluegrass, the Avett Brothers’ aesthetic of folk-rock always has a calming effect. The sometimes-talking, sometimes-singing voices of Scott and SethAvett seem to have that effect no matter what genre they’re channelling. “Vanity” showcases a little bit of wailing with singing, and its repetitive nature — just one verse and one chorus — really lets the piano, drums and bass line shine as they take center stage to the lyrics. Piano is also a major player on “Good To You,” with only vocal harmonies and the timely use of a tambourine keeping its beautiful simplicity, making the song a success. The song tells the story of putting work and other commitments over loved ones and is especially poignant when the narrator is a father looking at his grown-up daughter, having missed out on her entire childhood.
My favorite song on the album is the banjo-filled “Skin and Bones.” The lyrics paint pictures for listeners with their vivid imagery, and the laid-back sound of the brothers’ voices creates an emotional connection with the main sentiment of the song.
Part of the Avett Brothers’ appeal is their ability to take the listener on a ride throughout the entirety of an album. They not only shift tempos between upbeat and weepy but also bring in elements of pop, folk, rock and bluegrass, allowing the listener to travel through different genres while keeping an expressive lyrical quality that threads itself through each and every song.