Grammy-nominated folk rock band, The Avett Brothers, released an eighth studio album on Oct. 15. Titled “Magpie and the Dandelion,” the new record straddles the divide between a stand-alone album and collection of B-sides.
The songs were all recorded in the same session as 2012’s “The Carpenter,” and in some places (particularly the tracks “Souls Like The Wheels” and “Skin and Bones”), you can tell. The overall tone of the album, however, is more reminiscent of The Avett Brothers’ earlier works, especially the “intrusively good” album, as Pitchfork reviewer Mike Powell put it, “Emotionalism.”
Magpie starts off strong with “Open Ended Life,” which features a touch more harmonica than banjo (the Avetts’ favored musical accouterment). It’s a track that wouldn’t be out of place in an introspective, indie film soundtrack as Seth Avett intones, “Let’s find something new to talk about / I’m tired of talkin’ ’bout myself.”
The third track, “Never Been Alive,” takes a turn for the maudlin, lilting along at a leisurely, almost sluggish, tempo. The first single, “Another is Waiting,” immediately follows, picking up the pace and incorporating the Avetts’ characteristic up-tempo layered banjos and guitar, but it then segues into yet another slow song.
“Bring Your Love To Me” is a lovely but almost nondescript love song — a sample lyric: “Bring your love to me / I will hold it like a newborn child.”
Piano-based ballad “Good To You” might have fallen into the same trap as “Bring Your Love,” but the melancholy lyrics are far more substantive. The chorus features very pretty harmonizing background vocals and makes for an easy listen.
Smack in the middle of “Magpie” is a live acoustic version of “Souls Like The Wheels,” from the 2008 EP, “The Second Gleam.” The Avett Brothers always give impressive live performances so the song works, but as A.V. Club reviewer Marah Eakin wrote, “it seems like the band basically forced the track onto the record, but couldn’t be bothered to go back to the studio to record it.”
All told, “Magpie and the Dandelion” is far from The Avett Brothers’ best record. It’s not as cohesive or original as 2009’s “I and Love and You,” nor is it as lyrically impressive as “The Carpenter,” but if you consider it to be a continuation of the latter album, it’s still a solid entry in the band’s expansive discography.
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