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The Avett Brothers, The Carpenter – The Avett Brothers’ last record, I And Love And You, was their well-deserved breakout moment, bringing their joyous banjo-driven songs to a whole new audience. The Carpenter is a defining moment for them (their first album following major-label and arena-size success) and they handle the challenge perfectly, never straying too far from their pattern of heartfelt emotional ballads and bluegrass stomping. This album, they’ve said, is about death, but the lyrics (which sometimes toe the line of cheesy) seem much more focused on growing up. Either way, they’re maturing both emotionally and musically without losing their sense of fun, and this album is one of their best yet.
The xx, Coexist – Very few bands can do so much with so little. To the cynical ear, this is not so much a band playing music as a computer making occasional blips and bloops, with plenty of empty spaces in between, accompanied by two whispering voices. And technically, that’s all the xx are; two vocalists and the synths of Jamie XX. They’re subtle, barely-there music, but they somehow conjure perfect melodies and emotions from their empty spaces and whispers.
Dave Matthews Band, Away From The World – Dave Matthews & co. are remarkable among jam-pop bands for their ability to change their sound and experiment while still sounding exactly like themselves. They blend R&B, funk, and rock in ways that can be, depending on their mood, emotional and driving or soft and crooning. It might be his distinctive voice, or maybe just their technical prowess as a band, but Away From The World is a great example of how well this can work.
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New Releases Tuesday: August 28, 2012