Review: The Second Gleam

by

The Avett BrothersThe Second Gleam
By Matthew Ralph

The announcement earlier this summer of the Avett Brothers’ plans to release their next full-length album on American Recordings/Columbia Records has helped to create added buzz for this eight-song EP. New attention aside, the Avett Brothers are hardly new kids on the block.

Their 11th release since a self-titled debut in 2000, The Second Gleam takes a mellower folk approach than 2007’s Emotionalism. If like me you still can’t get the spunky single “Die, Die, Die” out of your head, The Second Gleam might catch you a bit off-guard. In a good way.

Known as much for bringing the party to their live shows as they are for their work in the studio, we see the Avetts here showing their strengths as catchy and creative songwriters of stripped down tunes. While alternating takes of “The Greatest Sum” – one electric and the other acoustic on the digital download version of the record – come off as redundant and nearly unnecessary, the song is strong enough to demand a second listen. Still, when you hit repeat as I’ve been prone to do after the record cuts off so seemingly short the song does start to wear a bit thin. Songs like “Bella Donna” and “Black, Blue” make it worth repeated visits, latching onto the ears with their subtle blend of tender vocals and soothingly sparse instrumentals. “Murder in the City” and “Tear Down the House,” meanwhile, intrigue with their lyrical content, providing a glimpse into the personal and family history as the songs move at a slow-moving train’s pace.

If like me you are still getting to know the Avetts, this is a good place to start diving into the band’s back catalog before their big debut under the national spotlight. While I can’t speak with much authority to the other 10 releases (The First Gleam EP among them), their latest offering is worthy, to my ears, of regular rotation.

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