The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You [Album Review]

by oz on September 28, 2009

avett brothers cover art

The Avett Brothers are set to release one of the best albums of the year tomorrow. Although it’s their sixth studio release, I And Love And You marks their first foray into major label territory with the Sony imprint, American Recordings, piloted by none other than master producer, Rick Rubin. If you’re concerned that the major label spit-shined them up for mainstream crowds, fear not. While The Avett Brothers’ sound is more grown up, they don’t abandon their trademark sound or Carolina roots for one second.

The album starts off with the title track, a piano ballad that is easily one of the best songs of the year. That rolls into the stripped down “January Wedding” before you get the first taste of Avett on a major label. “Head Full of Doubt/ Road Full of Promise” begins with a stringed arrangement that elevates you before pausing for the first lines out of Scott Avett’s mouth:

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it

And that’s the moment when I knew this album was special and set apart from 2007’s Emotionalism. The previous album was full of intensity, covering themes of heartbreak, insecurity, shame, paranoia, lies and the futile escape from life’s problems. Even if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics,the underlying tension is felt in the music. It’s a great album, but its essence can wear you down emotionally. Hence the title, I suppose.

I And Love And You is the next chapter of the story. It’s about recognition, self-expression, actualization, acceptance and truth. It recognizes that lost loves may not return so the wise move is to step forward and find another. It’s about expressing desires, like on my favorite track “The Perfect Space,” where Scott says “I wanna have friends that I can trust/that love me for the man I’ve become not the man I was” and brother Seth sings “I wanna have pride like my mother has/ And not like the kind in the bible that turns you bad.”

The beauty of this album is in it’s spirit. Unlike its predecessor which drowns in lies and doubt, I And Love And You is always uplifting, in both the foolhardy songs like “Kick Drum Heart” and in those with more serious themes like “Ill With Want.” That same spirit is also captured in their concerts which I can’t recommend enough. These guys are artists in every sense of the word. They write captivating songs and switch between guitar, drums, banjo and keys with ease. Scott Avett is also a spectacular painter and exhibits his craft in the album art for I And Love And You (above) with his oil painting, Julianne in Vain.

Not much else to say, but wow. I just love this album.

The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You (via Spinner.com)

Live Video: The Avett Brothers – Laundry Room

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody September 28, 2009 at 9:35 am

I am by no means an Avett devotee. I liked Emotionialism and Four Thieves Gone just fine. But I never really fell head over heels like Oz did. Well this album has gone and changed all that as Rubin has once again worked his magic. As I said to Oz, I think I could make fart noises under my armpit and he could make it sound like gold. All and all, its about as good of an album that I have heard this year. And the title track could be the song of ’09.

Shirk September 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm

“Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” is the standout song for me.
I love the backstory as well. The band wasn’t that into the song but Rubin campaigned hard for them to include it on the record. Damn, that guys got a knack for hearing potential. Here’s a great article I read on my way back from SXSW this past March that talks about the making of the new album etc. http://www.americansongwriter.com/2009/03/the-avett-brothers-life-and-art-ambition-and-vision/

Vanessa September 28, 2009 at 3:30 pm

wow-what a thoughtful review. these guys are soaked w energy, emotions, and fun.
thanks for that article as well.

Jake September 28, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Loved The Second Gleam but I just can’t get into this one. Most of it is too poppy for me.
The new Langhorne Slim, on the other hand, is an album I can get excited about.

Matt B September 28, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Great review Oz! I have been anticipating the release of this album for quite some time now and can’t be anymore pleased with the outcome! My favorites so far are “Head Full Of Doubt”, “January Wedding” and “Tin Man”. Can’t wait to hear the live versions at The Ryman on Halloween.

oz September 28, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Thanks Matt. Had to pull out a thesaurus twice for this one.

P. Lachey September 29, 2009 at 10:31 am

Been listening to this one all morning. Probably my favorite of ’09……standout review as well.

CountryMusicPride.com September 29, 2009 at 12:03 pm

. So let us discuss “I & Love & You” and the songs that it boasts. Prior to the release, the super-fan that I am, I collected and archived 6 of the 13 songs that were to be on the album form various YouTube postings. And O man, they were good good songs! banjo blasting my face off, guitar town USA, screaming backup vocals, and dynamic — all in traditional Avett Brothers fashion. I was sure that Rubin couldn’t alter these jams (in a negative way) too much, because these songs were set and had the Avett Brothers sound and style all over the place. After I had grown accustomed to these songs, their energy, and their arrangements the time had now come for me to listen to the streaming and hear what changes were made and what the other 7 songs sounded like. After convincing the publicist to send me a link to the stream I put my head phones, closed my eyes, sat back and it was there that I began my journey to the land of “O shit man, what happened to these guys!?” Ok, that might seem a little harsh, so allow me to clarify. The songs are absolutely brilliant, the recording is crisp, and it’s a really good alternative rock album. So for the masses who are unfamiliar with the Brothers’ previous work this album will become an instant favorite. But for those of us who were familiar with the brothers of old it really is quite deflating. These songs are so polished down that that raw energy and raspy vocals and rattley instrumentation have all been mopped up. The former banjo and guitar driven songs have been pushed aside to make room for more piano than a Libarache tribute festival. As for the banjo, a signature mark of the Avett Brothers sound, it only shows up for 2 songs (and one of the songs is just the last 20 seconds or so).

I don’t know who is to blame, or praise, for this change; regardless if it’s the Avett’s or Rubin, I foresee the Avetts becoming a household name. Once we had the Brothers covering Woody Guthrie, Bob Willis, and Townes Van Zandt, and now I don’t think those songs will fly to their audience that will no doubt be comprised of thousands of screaming 13 year old girls, frat brothers hoods, and first dates. I foresee the Avetts being clumped in with the likes of The Fray and Ben Folds, and wouldn’t be surprised if one of these songs made its way on to a Drew Barrymore movie during some sort of New York City lovers montage right before the credits roll. I’m not saying this is bad, I’m just saying it’s different. Most people will say something to the effect of “Yeah I know the album is pretty radio friendly and low key, but its goanna be the live shows where you really are going to be able to experience the energy and passion of the Avett Brothers” and I would tend to agree, but that is only if you can get enough money to purchase your thousand dollar tickets before they sell out Madison Square Garden in twelve seconds.

“I & Love & You” is a brilliant record, it will for sure be a hit to fans old and new alike, it will make them no small amount of money, and will for sure be on my personal top 5 albums of the year; but in terms of musical let downs it is the biggest one I’ve had in 10 years. There was a time that I loved the Avett Brothers and I felt connected with them and like I was a part of what they did, if they had a cult I would have been like the chief evangelist and apologist for them, but with the release of “I & Love & You” I think I am growing luke-warm and might even apostatize (I heard that Eliiott Brood has a good one coming out, I think Ill have to check it out). Well Im off to watch the Avett Brothers perform on David Letterman, I wonder if the Jonas Brothers will come out and do like a dual brother combo, that would be pretty cool if Rick Rubin could hook that up!

oz September 30, 2009 at 7:55 am

And the award for longest comment of all time goes to…

Well, Pride, I have to disagree. I consider myself an Avett devotee and I don’t think they’ll be compared to Ben’s Fold or The Fray – not pop enough. Sure, this is more accessible than past records and the guys trimmed/shaved their beards, but the soul of the music is completely in tact and the songwriting is 100% Avett.

I think Rubin does an amazing job of NOT polishing up their sound too much. I listened to Emotionalism and I And Love And You back to back and was struck by how they seemed to flow together, as I said in my review, as different chapters of a novel.

If you’d draw any comparisons, I think Kings of Leon would come to mind. But Avett didn’t go that far.

Vanessa September 30, 2009 at 9:45 am

Oz–what do you think about Pride’s comment re: the almost non-existent banjo? that was disappointing to read.
i do not have this album yet to discern the difference myself… of course change can be a positive thing.

Vanessa September 30, 2009 at 9:45 am

Oz–what do you think about Pride’s comment re: the almost non-existent banjo? that was disappointing to read.
i do not have this album yet to discern the difference between less banjo more piano myself… of course change can be a positive thing.

Hank September 30, 2009 at 11:08 am

I must say that this and Roadside Graves’ My Son’s Home are probably the best rock albums of 2009

oz October 2, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Vanessa – The banjo isn’t prominent and it was replaced by the piano. I didn’t miss it much. As long as the soul of the band is there, I have no issues with them spreading their wings and trying new things. The songs are beautiful.

DBT Chicago October 3, 2009 at 12:19 am

fyi: the two semi-recent songs that consistently test my ability to hold back tears/goose bumps are avett brothers’ murder in the city and bon iver’s the wolves (1/2) …

… as i was driving up to deerfield for work today and listening to the dodos’ time to die, i thought about how awesome it would be if bravo could stage some sort of top percussionist contest. of course this works for guitarists, but, let’s face it, drummers bring out far more of the animalistic emotions in all of us, even those who usually don’t care about music. which makes for better tv.
the first two drummers i pick are (don’t know their names) the rural alberta advantage guy and the dodos guy. i have seen both, and both make you want to quit your job and go buy a drum kit.

Chissy October 3, 2009 at 3:37 am

it’s completely true that the avett brothers made a captivating album here. they seem to have put their hearts and souls into this one and it doesn’t go unnoticed. this album is amazing, i can’t stop listening to it (january wedding, i and love and you, kick drum heart, it goes on and on). i can’t wait to see them live

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