“True Sadness,” The Avett Brothers
The appearance of programming, synthesizers, and mellotron on the Avett Brothers’ decidedly pop eighth record might have some purist fans of the band’s neo-traditionalism scratching their beards in disbelief. That’s a risk the Avetts are taking with this unapologetically polished album, which reframes their music without sapping their identity. With conflicted lyrics about doubt and marital discord, the songs have a wounded soulfulness seemingly born out of intensive therapy. Balancing the Avetts’ roots with a bigger sound, producer Rick Rubin prevents the melodic songs from sinking under the weight of their introspection. He sweetens, deepens, and adds heavier rhythmic accents (as in the arena whomp of “Ain’t No Man”). Bright harmonies and organ swells counterpoint the melancholy of “True Sadness” (“the way it seems is that no one is fine”). When the group hews closest to its bare-boned front porch aesthetic, it stumbles with a wanly sentimental “I Wish I Was.” The Avetts now may have fully grown out of that approach, hoping their audience is willing to grow with them.
ESSENTIAL “True Sadness”
The Avett Brothers perform at Thompson’s Point, Portland, Maine, July 4.Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.