The Avett Brothers' third major label record, "Magpie and the Dandelion," gives new and old fans something to enjoy.
"Magpie and the Dandelion" is the Avett Brothers' eighth studio album and the third produced by Rick Ruben. Since being taken under Ruben's wing, the band's edge has smoothed out.
The Avetts' older records contained more yelling and overall angst. Under Ruben's guidance, The Avett Brothers have toned back the yelling and lost a lot of their signature edginess. Another result of Ruben's tutelage is a slow transition from twangy, folk love songs to a more Americana singer/songwriter style of music.
The first song on the album is a perfect example of this change. "Open Ended Life," a song about not committing to things for fear of being trapped by them, features an electric guitar but also highlights a banjo. This juxtaposition somewhat illustrates what the band has been moving towards for the last few years.
Although their style of music may have changed some over the last few years The Avett Brothers' lyrical prowess has not wavered a bit.
The energetic, fast-tempo single, "Another is Waiting," illustrates the cruel task of rising up in the music industry for a young woman. A line in the song gives a grim image of the industry, "It's a fake, it's a con / The nature of the road you're on / Lets me see your skeleton / Well before your life is done."
In the "Another is Waiting: Commentary" available exclusively on Spotify, The Avett Brothers' bassist, Bob Crawford said, "'Another is waiting' is the condensed notion of a young girl who has talent and beauty and stands on the edge of that chew-you-up and spit-you-out world of the music industry."
A song with similar qualities, "Vanity," consists of heavy vocals, piano and an electric guitar solo. "Vanity" seems to have been written amidst some sort of existential crisis. This rock ballad claims that the narrator's music, loving nature and words are all futile, or "vanity."
Although the Avett Brothers have moved away from their folky roots, they seem to always throw at least a song or two on to their albums that are reminiscent of their early albums. "Magpie and the Dandelion," however, actually contains a live performance of "Souls Like the Wheels," a song off of their 2008 EP, "The Second Gleam."
Including a live performance of "Souls Like the Wheels" on this album probably has something to do with Seth Avett's recent breakup with his wife and new romance with Dexter co-star, Jennifer Carpenter. Lines like "One little girl bring me life from where I thought it was dark," seem to indicate that a new romance has saved him from his relationship troubles of the past.
Another song reminiscent of older Avett Brothers' music, "Bring Your Love to Me," is a beautifully melodic song with themes about raising and protecting a child. This song slowly builds up until the end of each verse. The melody culminates with Seth Avett's sultry voice sitting perfectly atop the mesmerizing banjo picking of Scott Avett.
Although "Magpie and the Dandelion" has a lot to enjoy, it's hard to look past the overall sappiness of the album. Songs like, "Good to You," "Skin and Bones" and "Vanity" are all quite melancholic. Long time Avett fans are not used to this negativity.
However, The Avett Brothers make music about their lives, and the evolution from innocent fun-loving songs to more pensive and thoughtful ballads is the same transition that many bands like The Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers and U2 have done.
The Avett Brothers' music will continue to evolve and mature as the band evolves and matures as well. That is what separates them from flash-in-the-pan artists and is what will keep them relevant for years to come.