Closer Than Together by the Avett Brothers

guest post by Laura V

The Avett Brothers have always had energetic folk rock infused with some banjos and, occasionally, progressive themes. Closer Than Together, released in October 2019, surprised me with some very political songs intermixed with some new sounds as well as the old familiar Avett sound on other songs. It took a few listens to wrap my head around this album.

Here are the tracks:

  1. “Bleeding White”
  2. “Tell the Truth”
  3. “We Americans”
  4. “Long Story Short”
  5. “C Sections and Railway Trestles”
  6. “High Steppin’”
  7. “When You Learn”
  8. “Bang Bang”
  9. “Better Here”
  10. “New Woman’s World”
  11. “Who Will I Hold”
  12. “Locked Up”
  13. “It’s Raining Today”

My first impression was of the musical group The Black Keys to be honest when I heard Bleeding White. After listening a second time I could hear the Avett brand shine through so this song is a keeper on my playlist. I could dig a whole album of this edgier sound. Tell the Truth is more in line with a typical ballad from previous albums but it feels interrupted by the monologue in the middle.

We Americans is more like an essay than a song. It vaguely reminds me of a long political poem I wrote some 20 years ago. I’m not sure I like this one even though I agree 100% with the sentiments. It’s difficult to condense the immense complexity behind the problems in our country into catchy phrases and choruses so it doesn’t. In their mission statement for this album, they say, “We didn’t make a record that was meant to comment on the sociopolitical landscape that we live in. We did, however, make an album that is obviously informed by what is happening now on a grander scale all around us…because we are a part of it and it is a part of us.”

Long Story Short makes use of the literary device of multiple narrators. It’s a glimpse at the inner lives of several people loosely connected and works really well. C Sections and Railway Trestles is a jaunty tune celebrating recent parenthood. High Steppin’ is the icing on the 10th studio album cake that is Closer than Together. It is pure foot-stompin’ Avettness. (Go watch the video on YouTube, I’ll wait.) It is also split in half by a monologue but it sounds right in this song, not jarring.

When You Learn is more reminiscent of typical earlier Avett songs sure to please long-term fans. Bang Bang is a song that probably won’t go over well with the Avett’s gun-toting neighbors. Awkward. I, myself, have had similar musings about our culture’s predilection for violent movies and intense love of guns. I take the opposite opinion of theirs, however, I think people’s desire for violent books and movies is the reason they’re written, not media inciting violence.

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