The Avett Brothers released its 10th album on Friday, which features socio-political themes never before addressed by the band. Brothers Seth and Scott Avett use their platform to combine sweet melodies with hard hitting lyrics to address pressing issues such as toxic masculinity, irresponsible gun use and climate change in America.
The band claims that it didn't intend to make — and hasn't made — a sociopolitical album. The brothers address that the commentary made throughout the album stems from their personal understanding of the political climate and that their thoughts and words aren’t fact, rather their analysis of the world.
“The Avett Brothers will probably never make a sociopolitical record, but if we did, it might sound something like this,” Seth said in a mission statement about their album published on Instagram.
The third song on the album, “We Americans,” wrestles with the story of how America came to be, and how the country is still progressing and making amends. The Avett Brothers said in an interview with Billboard that the song should be viewed as a historical essay.
Referencing America’s broken past, the band sings, “But the story is complicated and hard to read / Pages of the book obscured or torn out completely / Not even two lifetimes have passed since the days of Lincoln / The sins of Andrew Jackson, the shame of Jim Crow.”
The Avett Brothers cap its song with a hint of hope and redemption, singing, “I dearly love this land / Because of and in spite of We The People / We are more than the sum of our parts / All these broken bones and broken hearts / God, will you keep us wherever we go? / Can you forgive us for where we've been? / We Americans.”
Its pre-released song “Bang, Bang” quarrels with senseless gun violence seen in America. The Avett Brothers disclosed in an interview with USA Today that they’ve both had a loaded gun pointed at them. The song delineates that violent movies and the increase of irresponsible gun use in America coincide.
The brothers make a point to have the listener ponder about the connection between violent media and gun usage in America. The senseless violence, from their point of view, comes from how audiences have become desensitized to gun violence. “If you think there isn't any connection between / All the violence you see in real life and what's on the screen / Well, it seems painfully clear to me / That you're living in a fantasy.”
The Avett Brothers defy stereotypes by producing a dialogue that supports middle America becoming more conscious about gun use and its surrounding culture, as the brothers are gun owners themselves.
“I own several guns, and I grew up around very responsible gun owners, so I saw a relationship with people and guns that was very different than the kind you see in many movies,” Scott said in an interview with USA Today. “The song is commenting on how ludicrous some of the examples of guns onscreen are.”
The Avett Brothers make it clear that gun culture is overly flamboyant in its efforts to desensitize people to violence, further reiterating the serious impact gun violence has on society at large.
Its women empowerment song, “New Woman’s World,” begins with uplifting acoustic music. The song is told from a man’s viewpoint and recaps the misconduct of men in the past and how their pursuit of money and their vitalization of the free market has led to a dying planet.
Through the lyrics of the song, the brothers choose to comment on how America was founded on capitalism and patriarchal tendencies, and how that in turn has had a negative effect on the environment. Ringing out clearly over the instrumentation the brothers sing, “And we cared about clean air, but there was money to be made / And breathing's nice, but it don't compare with getting paid.”
The band uses a satirical narrative to make the content of the song more digestible for the listener. The Avett Brothers assert themselves as an ally to women singing, “It used to be a man's world, but all we did was fight / I'm glad it's finally in the hands of the women and the girls / I can't wait to see what they do with what's left of the world.”
“Closer Than Together” proves to be a valiant commentary of how the Avett Brothers view America’s political climate and how it seeps into the brother’s personal lives, something many listeners may relate to.
Listening to the album is an active feat, not a passive activity, as catching each line and digesting its meaning is pertinent to understanding the album as a work of art rather than purely a musical manifestation.
Contact Audrey Nakagawa at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.