Analogue Music | The Avett Brothers - Closer Than Together
The Avett Brothers: Closer Than Together

The Avett Brothers: Closer Than Together

Artist: The Avett Brothers · Written by A.O. Westley

Date Released

4 October, 2019


American / Republic


55 minutes

​As I press play and begin my first run through of the new Avett Brothers’ album, I’m immediately impressed with the abruptness of the opening song.

The initial presentation of the album showcases a drastic departure from the sound of their previous album, True Sadness, and returns to an older sound reminiscent of The Carpenter. Released concurrently with Scott Avett’s unveiling of his art show I N V I S I B L E at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC, Closer Than Together is a culturally prominent piece of music that presents itself as an overt challenge to complacency in America.

The beginning of the album continues forcefully into “We Americans,” a song that pointedly speaks out against the wrongs of America in context with the brothers’ experiences with a blind patriotic upbringing. It questions America’s capacity to be forgiven for national tragedies inflicted on marginalized peoples, both native and foreign to the land, and it explicitly condemns the hateful ways of what many (wrongly) believe to be a by-gone era. But it also identifies hope for unity between those of us being brought up in a new light of societal pain.

“But I dearly love this land, because of and in spite of We the People"

“Long Story Short” is exactly what the name implies; a beautiful short story about the interconnectedness of the people you pass every day and the secret significance of every interaction. But the story takes a darker turn near the end of the song and points out the important reality of how easy it is for a child to slip through the cracks of society and resort to raising themselves—an act that ultimately leads to unresolved wounds that manifest as the child grows older. On “C Sections and Railway Trestles,” we take a break from questioning our social upbringings. Keeping in stride with previous albums like The Carpenter and Magpie and the Dandelion, this is another song to a new child that has entered the Avett Bros family—specifically Seth’s son Isaac.

"Fatherhood" by Scott Avett
"Fatherhood" by Scott Avett

As we move further into our listen-through, there are two interludes specifically concerned with truth—which seems to be a binding theme throughout the album. The brothers speak to the subjectivity of the perception of truth and how it guides our interactions with the people we’re close to and the people we don’t know. A general callback to the album title, this shifting perspective of truth is further highlighted through songs like “We Americans” and “When You Learn.”

“When you learn you can earn the love you’re waiting for, it’s already yours”

The brothers have made a stance in regard to their discomfort with a lack of substantive gun control in the US through their song “Bang Bang,” as well as the ending on “Long Story Short.” They also touch on their disapproval with our current president, and they speak on the present-day media’s heroic portrayal of violence, as America consumes it like entertainment.

“New Woman’s World” is another song explicitly condemning the wrongs enacted on the world, this time in reference to men’s long-term negative influence of power. Made apparent by the song title, the brothers look forward to the potential for positive influence on the world through several female’s recent entrance in power. The brothers ride a tactful line of celebrating women’s capacity to change the world while also offering to help in whatever way they can—and should. As the album nears the end, the tone shifts from an outsider's view of society to an introspective look at personal relationships. The fear, anger, and depression that comes with the reality of needing to be true to others and oneself is heavily addressed in the last three songs of the album.

“I’m a beating heart off the beaten path, the god of shame, fear my wrath”

Concerning the album’s sound, the Avett brothers have mellowed out in comparison True Sadness, the heavily produced predecessor. The brothers have returned to their more simplistic roots as a folk band and, while this isn’t a musically innovative album, there is a warm feeling of nostalgia that goes along perfectly with its October release date. The album’s simple sound paired with its culturally relevant message harkens back to the days of folk music troubadours such as Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, so it comes as no surprise to see the tradition of pairing folk music with social activism.

If you’ve been searching for an album that’s easy on the ears yet hard on the soul, you’ve found your Fall song collection. With an album-wide emphasis on personal and societal awareness that has a heavy cultural presence and brings context to the social climate, this album has a broad but clear message to its listeners: pay attention to the people you’re close to as well as those that you’re not. There is always value in any relationship we foster in our lives.