by Katie Kenerly
I have to admit, when my long-time favorite band the Avett Brothers released their single “Another is Waiting” in early August, I found myself somewhat disappointed. It struck me as pop-y and predictable, with far too few of the beautiful, unique harmonies that can only be produced when brothers sing together. The more I listened to it, though, the more it began to grow on me, and two months later you can almost always hear it blasting in my car as I drive down University Ave. What can I say? It grew on me, and that only made the wait for the October 15 release of Magpie and the Dandelion all the more excruciating.
The band’s eighth studio album was produced by the legendary Rick Rubin, who did a fantastic job on both I and Love and You (2009) and The Carpenter (2012). Magpie, however, falls somewhat flat in comparison to its two Rubin-produced predecessors. With interesting and unexpected instrumentation throughout (including much more piano and percussion and even incorporating the fiddle at times), the Avett’s newest album is certainly unlike anything the band has produced before.
Much like The Carpenter, which was recorded and released during bassist Bob Crawford’s daughter’s long battle with brain cancer, Magpie and the Dandelion came into being during a very difficult and emotional point in the band’s career: brother Seth’s divorce from his wife Susan. Tracks such as “Morning Song” reflect the pain the younger Avett is certainly experiencing, and as a result the album as a whole is much darker than any earlier works. Lines such as “I’ve been thinking of drinking again,” and “now that I’m home, do you still want me here?” have a way of catching the close listener’s attention. This album, though certainly not among my favorites, is more intimate than previous releases, and gives the listener an unexpected glimpse into the lives of this truly unique group.
Magpie and the Dandelion is an emotional album created by a band that has experienced an incredible number of trials and tribulations in the past year alone. Their career has taken many unexpected turns throughout its course, and I look forward to seeing where the future takes them. All in all, I give it three out of five stars.