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Best of the 00s: Avett Brothers & The Black Angels

Posted by April 18th, 2011 No Comments »

Best of the 00s: Gabe Joins the 21st Century
Part 17: Avett Brothers (Twice) & The Black Angels 

Nada Co-founders Matt and Gabe are listening to 197 of the music press’s picks for “best albums of the 00s” for a series called Gabe Joins the 21st Century.

The Avett Brothers – Emotionalism
#49 on Nada’s List

Gabe: Emotionalism recaptures the meandering soul of Townes van Zandt better than any other alt-country album I can recall. It is chock full of banjo-driven songs with earnest lyrics telling interesting stories over great harmonies. Almost all the tracks are good, but the first four tracks culminating with the aching “Weight of Lies” are just outstanding. Really, really solid album if you like this kind of thing. Which I do. Grade: LOVE

Matt: Exceptional stuff indeed. Great songs sung by two outstanding singers and played with a passion and spirit rare in music. On Emotionalism‘s best tracks, of which there are many, it feels like they’ve got a direct line to the human soul. One example is “Will You Return,” when Scott Avett  sings “Why Can’t You See Yourself, as Beautiful as I see You?” I can’t imagine why this didn’t appear in more Top 50 of the Decade lists. Grade: LOVE

Avett Brothers - I And Love and YouThe Avett Brothers –  I And Love And You
Paste’s #9  

Matt: On I And Love And You, the Avett Brothers upped the instrumentation and production value over their previous release, Emotionalism, and ended up losing the raw, back-porch energy that made that one such a masterpiece. Sure, I And Love… has the same great songwriting throughout, and the title track is a timeless classic, but the whole thing feels just a little bit too clean for its own good. Even the super bluegrass freak out at the end of “Laundry Room,” while awesome, is a little more polished than you’d like it to be. But the songs are so great that we can forgive the cleaner delivery and touches of schmaltz, most notably on the inspirational ballad “Head Full Of Doubt, Road Full Of Promise.” Grade: LIKE

Gabe: Caveat: I’m not usually one to call an artist a sellout or otherwise complain when they get a fancy label deal and put out an album that polishes off all their rough edges. It turns out lots of musicians want lots of people to hear their songs. And it’s hard to resist the urge to twiddle all those expensive new knobs in the studio until all your tracks sound just perfect. But with the strings overlaying many of the country-rock ballads, I and Love and You sounds more like the Eagles then Townes van Zandt. And I mean that as a diss, using “Eagles” as shorthand for “everything that sucked about popular music in the 1970s,” which I don’t even really believe. But I digress. I and Love and You is produced and polished music for the grownups, and while its glossy textures aren’t as immediately appealing as the rough banjos and vocal harmonies of Emotionalism, the songs are still strong. I like it better each time I listen to it. Grade: LIKE

TrippyThe Black Angels – Passover
Nada’s #41   

Gabe: If anyone manages to film an Apocalypse Now for the Iraq wars, they have a ready-made soundtrack in Passover. The album’s obsessions with war and violence are a perfect match to its martial drums and droning guitars and vocals.  he songs on Passover trudge along like a dinosaur and/or “When The Levee Breaks.” The first four tracks (Young Men Dead”, “The First Vietnamese War”, “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven”, and “The Prodigal Sun”) are a perfect, brutal assault, so it’s not surprising that the rest of the album trails off a bit. Grade: LIKE

Matt: Before Passover even came out, Seattle band the Zero Points had told me about this amazing psych rock band from Austin they opened for. The album also marked the first time amazing local label Light in the Attic hit my radar, so I anticipated it’s release and adored it for the better part of 2006 and in to 2007. Listening to it now, it can’t help feel like a genre exercise, but a darn good one. Big Zepplin drums crash against moody guitar and vocals and create an eerie, wonderful vibe across ten good songs. Grade: LIKE

More in this series:

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