Nandi Pape | My first experience with the Avett Brothers is one I will not soon forget.
I was highly jet-lagged, my internal body clock telling me it was late afternoon when in reality it was barely 9 o’ clock in the morning. I had been on a plane for 20 hours and had just arrived in Philadelphia on a freezing winter’s morning in December. My uncle, whom I was visiting, was appalled at my never having heard of them. He proceeded to play “I and Love and You” from their album with the same name.
It subsequently became my go-to song of the trip and whenever I hear it now, it brings back memories of the jet-lagged, bright-eyed version of me about to have the holiday of a lifetime in the land of milk and honey. As a result, I find myself (and my music taste) wanting to like everything they produce.
Seth and Scott Avett’s and producer Rick Rubin’s follow-up to I and Love and You makes this easy. It has been said that the main theme of The Carpenter is death. The brothers confirmed this in an interview with CBS, when Seth Avett stated “We’re thinking about big topics — topics that are big to us anyway. Life and death.” Perhaps the most explicit of these is, “Through My Prayers,” which deals with deep loss and regret.
Another allusion includes “Winter in My Heart,” a melancholy tune that makes you want to walk in the rain with your hands dug deep into your pockets with a stern look on your face. This track also introduces a deeper, darker theme of the album in the depressing narration. Growing older and being unable to recognise beauty any more.
Despite these rather depressing tunes, there are more positive and upbeat tracks. “The Once and Future Carpenter” for example, tells of fulfilling dreams despite humble beginnings, and eventually being content in death. “Life,” the mellow, guitar-y final track on the album (and my personal favourite) leaves us with the message that we are meant for something more than earthly vices, hurtful relationships and hypocrisy. This final song’s message ties the theme of the album together and offers a type of catharsis.
The big question any Avett Brothers album should answer is “Does it compare to the lyrical genius of ‘Laundry Room,’ ‘Ten Thousand Words’ or ‘The Ballad of Love and Hate’?” In the case of The Carpenter, the answer is yes. Yes it does. In abundance.
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