The Avett Brothers — Emotionalism


Came across a review of this CD in Paste Magazine that gave it four-and-a-half stars, and it was no exaggeration. Amazing lyricism, mid-song shifts in melody and instrumentation, and vocal sensitivity. Straight up and unpretentious, this is a CD where my favorite tracks (54 minutes of them) will shift over time. Take a lyric sample from “All My Mistakes”:

I made decisions some right and some wrong
And I let some love go I wish wasn’t gone
These things and more I wish I had not done

But I can’t go back
And I don’t want to
‘Cause all my mistakes
They brought me to you

I have some “friends” they don’t know who I am
So I write quotations around the word friends
But I have a couple that have always been there for me . . .

Take the opening of “Pretty Girl From Chile”

I’m no more than a friend girl
I can see that you need more
My boots are on my feet now
My bag is by the door

“The Weight of Lies”:

The weight of lies will bring you down
And follow you to every town
Cause nothing happens here that doesn’t happen there
So when you run make sure you run
To something and not away from
Cause lies don’t need an aeroplane to chase you anywhere.

And “Salina”:

Salina, I’m as nowhere as I can be
Could you add some somewhere to me

Best of all, though, are the personified roots of all virtue and vice, both transcendent and immanent in “The Ballad of Love and Hate,” with its occasional vocal phrase clipped short or extended just right for emphasis and convincing use of one word to express stark contrasts within a single vocal narrative. Simply amazing.

Here are a few reasons why the song resonates so strongly with me, and (at least lyrically) should with you:

  • Love always wants to be close to its beloved, even (or especially) when its beloved is the enemy.
  • The essence of hate is indifference.
  • Love is progressive and conquers all, even hate.
  • Hate is disordered, irrational, and compelling.

Yet, the song leaves me wanting a little more, I must admit. Though real love is unconditional love, real love is not content to allow its object to wallow in a status quo of indifference, disorder, and insanity. Unconditional love frees one to be vulnerable and steadfastly seek the good of the Other regardless of nature or intensity of its opposition to love.  Maybe this just means that we know the end of the story whose middle we barely glimpse in this fine song–one of many on Emotionalism.


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