Soundbites: The Avett Brothers, Black Kids
Routt County correspondent
Summit County, CO
Music fans love Seth and Scott Avett because they feel like they know them ” because when they hear one of the brothers pick a banjo and sing lyrics like these, they feel like he’s singing about their own lives:
“I remember cryin’ over you/And I don’t mean like a coupla tears and I’m blue/I’m talkin’ about collapsin’ and screamin’ at the moon/But I’m a better man for having gone through it/Yes I’m a better man for having gone through.”
That song, “Tear Down the House,” is the first on “The Second Gleam,” a reflective and timely follow-up to the band’s 2006 “The Gleam” EP.
As the Avetts’ last recording with hometown label Ramseur Records before they ship off to a freshly inked deal with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings, “The Second Gleam” is polished and poetic, characteristic of the affable honesty that’s endeared this band to everyone who’s heard it.
It’s not the kind of record you release days after signing to a major label, and it makes no concessions to anything other than the brothers’ emotions. The Avetts are storytellers, and songs like “Tear Down the House,” “Bella Donna” and “The Greatest Sum” sit easily and unassumingly of their acoustic backings.
When Black Kids ” a group of five young hipsters from Jacksonville, Fla., who clearly wish they had been raised in British dance clubs ” released its online EP in August 2007, the four songs quickly gained blog buzz, and everyone from Pitchfork to Paste loved them.
A year later, Black Kids has come out with its first full-length, and the love has faded. And that is completely unfair.
This is the exact same devilishly simple dance pop that caught ears and garnered repeated plays when it hit MySpace. There’s just more of it. No, it’s not complex, and no, “Partie Traumatic” is not the kind of album that you sit down, listen to, ponder and repeat. But it is the kind of album that plays happily in the background at a smallish party, or that makes short car trips considerably more entertaining.
“I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again)” is a particularly catching mid-album track that’s new to the LP, and sounds like a cross between mid-level Bowie and 1960s doo-wop. Album closer “Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo)” uses a jittery electric bass line and guitar hooks to drive Reggie Youngblood’s superficial-on-purpose lyrics.
Black Kids is one of countless groups of young musicians that has been given much more praise than their music necessarily deserved, and then had expectations set way too high for that music to reach.
“Partie Traumatic” is workable for what it wants to do, which is to get people dancing. Why Black Kids was ever expected to do anything more than that is out of the band’s control.
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