Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Avett Brothers -- My 30,000 Foot Snap Review

First, let me get this out there.  While I am a huge music fan (and stream music 24/7 on Rhapsody, which I inherited from Yahoo, which I inherited from my former company Musicmatch), I am no big fan of country music.  But, increasingly, I find myself crossing over and liking what I hear.  The Avett Brothers are one such crossover band for me.  Certainly country-flavored.  But, certainly beautiful melody-makers and storytellers too (much like a fine Minnesota band, The Jayhawks).  Their last album -- "I and Love and You" -- resonated.  And, that was only underscored when I saw them live a few years back at Coachella.  Impactful.

So, as I sit here traveling at 30,000 feet with my Gogo Internet (which is acting up, by the way, for reasons explained to me in an interesting post from Gigaom), I listen with anticipation to the band's new album "The Carpenter."

Here is my track-by-track snap-judgment after listening just to 60-90 second snippets of each track  -- what I call "Snap Reviews."  I have written such snap reviews of new albums from some of my favorite bands before.  Check out this earlier blog post that sums those up (for the Shins & Death Cab for Cutie), as well as more fully-fleshed out album reviews (for Metric, Arcade Fire, Silversun Pickups).

Track 1 -- "The Once and Future Carpenter" -- quiet, simple, pleasant; you feel like you are sitting on a front porch with the singer as you listen, just as the sun is going down.  Nice way to start ...

Track 2 -- "Live and Die" -- banjo time once again (an Avett Brothers hallmark); quiet (at least at the start), simple, pleasant.  Wait, did I say that already?  Nice enough, but a bit repetitive (at least at the start and until it opens up).  Am awaiting something a bit deeper and more produced, like "Head Full of Doubt" and "I and Love and You" from the previous album.

Track 3 -- "Winter in My Heart" -- quieter, pretty melody, but a bit trite -- "it must be winter in my heart, there's nothing warm in there at all ..."  Really?  So far, the band hasn't grabbed me.  Next!

Track 4 -- "Pretty Girl from Michigan" -- upbeat, yes; but memorable?  No.

Track 5 -- "I Never Knew You" -- another upbeat track, with better effect; I can imagine this one working well live (with the crowd singing along); but, still nothing has really "moved" me ....

Track 6 -- "February Seven" -- the band takes it down several notches after two energetic tracks, back to the vibe of track 1; but, not quite as effective.  Again, pleasant enough -- but nothing memorable.  So far, my disappointment is palpable.

Track 7 -- "Through My Prayers" -- with a title like this, this song cannot be raucous; and it ain't (and I get lost in the flight attendant's drink cart coming down the plane's aisle); okay, back on track -- and the song is nice; soothing; a pretty melody -- the power of simplicity.  This song works for me -- one of the stand-out tracks thus far (but still not a classic).

Track 8 -- "Down With the Shine" -- this one is vintage Avett Brothers -- this is their sound.  But, make no mistake, that doesn't mean that it grabs me (because it doesn't); yes, I would enjoy it in concert, but I would forget about it immediately thereafter.

Track 9 -- "A Father's First Spring" -- as a father myself (to two wonderfully beautiful-hearted kids, Hunter and Luca), I looked forward to this one -- I am a sucker to maudlin father/son/daughter songs after all.  This is one of those tracks where the lyrics really matter ... and the lyrics make the song memorable (but the beautiful melody doesn't hurt).  My favorite lyric?  The refrain, "I do not live, unless I live in your life."  Now THAT's what I'm talking about!  That is what The Avett Brothers are all about.

Track 10 -- "Geraldine" -- back to upbeat country-fied rock; this is another one that will play well live -- very Jaybirds-like (which is a compliment), but still doesn't do it for me; very short song (1 minute 37 seconds), which is enough for me.

Track 11 -- "Paul Newman vs. the Demons" -- huh?  what?  Interesting song name, but how is the song itself?  This one is about as hard-rocking as The Avett brothers gets, and it doesn't work for me.  The band shines when their beautiful melodies introduce memorable lyrics ... as they do in "A Father's Spring".

Track 12 -- "Life" -- you know with title like this, especially as the closing track, this song will be quiet and simple -- placing the lyrics front and center.  Which this does.  And does beautifully.  This one is a reflection from a band that thinks deeply ... introspectively.

BOTTOM LINE SNAP REVIEW -- 3 of 5 stars.  Disappointing overall (my expectations were exceedingly high), but with some redeeming, beautiful tracks (Track 9 first, Track 12 second, Track 1, third).  Nothing that approaches the haunting beauty of "Headful of Doubt" and "I and Love and You" from the band's last album ....

Tellagami -- Instant Storytelling -- Check It Out

A long-time colleague in the digital media/music world, Sophia Kim, just reached out to me after several years and after reading my latest guest post in TechCrunch (a nice side benefit of guest posting, by the way, is hearing from some with whom you have lost touch).  Among other things, Sophia spent a few years at Vivendi after its acquisition of Michael Robertson's  In any event, Sophia founded, and is CEO of, a new company, Tellagami, focused on "instant storytelling."

"Instant storytelling"?  What is that you say?

The best way to understand it is by clicking this link -- which is the "Minigami" (mini story) that Sophia sent me in the first place.  You will "get" it immediately.  And, it is fun ... very fun.  I immediately sent a few "Minigamis" to my kids.

Not sure precisely what the business model is -- Sophia, please expand upon that in the comments to this post.  And, it would be nice to have some more choices in avatars.  I also would suggest an embed option for the "gamis" (I wanted to embed it into this post, in fact).  Nonetheless, Tellagami is an intriguing bit of whimsy.  I can also see them as being addictive and viral.

Good stuff Sophia.