In an open letter to fans earlier this year, The Avett Brothers said their new album, Magpie and the Dandelion, would have a strong feeling of “youthful wonder” about it, and they weren’t kidding. The album is filled with questions, defiance, romanticism and even something of a lone-wolf mentality that anyone can relate to. And while the record continues the band’s recent trend of gradually moving away from the more lively tunes of their early records, the band still fills this record with enough elan and vitality to make the statement about its youthful feel appropriate.
“Open Ended Life” is a charming bluegrass rock hybrid about not wanting to commit to things, while the pop rock track “Another is Waiting” uses lyrics like “It’s a fake, it’s a hoax” to embody the song’s lament of how easily we fall for the fake and superficial; neither of these sentiments is uncommon to hear from today’s youth. The folk number “Apart From Me” is a revealing commentary on the destructive nature of fame and how the life of a musician is not conducive to healthy romantic relationships, while the stirring piano ballad “Vanity” hits the nail on the youthful head with lyrics like “I’ve got something to say, but it’s all vanity,” encapsulating a young man’s desire to express himself, but only to realize that this desire is a selfish one.
The mid-tempo rocker, “Morning Song,” is the album’s most compelling track and perfectly exemplifies the spirit and depth of this record. In addition to lyrics that signify a person’s refusal to let pessimism and negativity rule their life (“It’s all right if you finally stop caring, just don’t go and tell someone that does.”), the finale is a fantastic dichotomy. The line “I have to find that melody alone” is sung by an increasingly larger chorus of voices, and the effect is chilling because it demonstrates how such a sentiment is both individual and universal at the same time, thus showing how the youth of today are on the same team even if they are going at it alone. It is a magnificent moment.
Magpie and the Dandelion is possessed of a simultaneously thoughtful and unrestrained spirit. The music on the whole is not as raucous as you would expect given the album’s themes, but there is a wizened feel to the songs, an almost “hindsight being 20/20” sort of tone, that makes the tracks stronger as a result. An insightful meditation into the hopes and fears of younger generations, filled with moments of questioning, setbacks, painful choices and how people deal with all these things, Magpie and the Dandelion is a deeply resonant album.