Listeners Won’t Be Saddened by The Avett Brothers ‘True Sadness’
True Sadness just sounds dreary. No, not the album itself, but rather the title. Nonetheless, The Avett Brothers aren’t nearly as melancholy as the title suggests, delivering a fine effort with their latest LP. Yeah, there’s some moments where melancholia is exhibited, but what listener would mind shedding some tears for art’s sake? All in all, The Avett Brothers are rock solid – better yet ‘folk solid’ – over the course of True Sadness.
The album opens spiritedly with “Ain’t No Man,” infectious from the jump. Updated folk-rock, “Ain’t No Man” should appeal to a wide audience, alienating no one. A minimal, hard-hitting groove coupled with awesome, assertive vocal harmonies? Rock on! “Mama, I Don’t Believe” keeps the momentum going strong, incorporating more traditional folk and Americana cues. Even if “Mama” is geared more towards the band’s core audience than the more all-encompassing opener, it excels and allows for more instrumental touches.
“No Hard Feelings” thrives off its sheer radiance and chilling quality. Generally softer as opposed to louder (think the opposite of “Ain’t No Man”), “No Hard Feelings” is a superb contrast to the two songs preceding it. “Smithsonian” smartly contrasts again, opting for a moderate pace and highlighting the banjo sound. This is clearly the most prominent banjo has been the entire album, hence pushing for that folk, bluegrass sensibility. Like everything else, “Smithsonian” shines.
“You Are Mine” unsurprisingly goes a different direction – the nature of True Sadness. Progressive, liberal music listeners will embrace it while some traditionalists may be more skeptical. As interesting as it is, “Satan Pulls the Strings” packs more oomph – more angst. “The devil’s in my head,” the band asserts as they fuse folk, country, rock, and dashes of electronica. Don’t get it twisted – “Satan Pulls The Strings” doesn’t have a bass drop – but you won’t find this on most traditional folk/Americana albums.
“True Sadness” returns the album to more familiar place after the experimentation of “You Are Mine” and “Satan Pulls the Strings.” “True Sadness” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but does find The Avett Brothers flexing. It should also be noted that “True Sadness” isn’t the least bit slow – tempo itself doesn’t contribute to the sadness! “I Wish I Was” has a tough act to follow. Does it succeed? Good enough, but not the crème de la crème.
The same could be said of “Fisher Road to Hollywood,” though the refrain is quite memorable and the songwriting remains sound. “Victims of Life” is a welcome change of pace, though definitely ‘left of center.’ Latin merged with folk? Who knew! Penultimate countrified joint “Divorce Separation Blues” gives True Sadness another notable moment, while closer “May It Last” is bizarre…in the most interesting way possible.
So is there any sadness to be experienced by the listeners of True Sadness? No. The Avett Brothers definitely know how to make an album that has something for everybody. Does every experiment work flawlessly? No, but there’s nothing that fails in the least. True Sadness = “A-Okay” in our book.
Gems: “Ain’t No Man,” “Mama I Don’t Believe,” “No Hard Feelings,” “Smithsonian,” “Satan Pulls the Strings” & “True Sadness”