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Exclusive First Listen: The Avett Brothers

With their roots in punk and bluegrass, Seth and Scott Avett know how and when to careen wildly, almost recklessly. But in their albums as The Avett Brothers, they're just as likely to ruminate softly on devotion, desire and regret, in austere, sweet-natured songs that exude a sort of hard-won decency. Hear the band's much-anticipated major-label debut, I and Love and You, in its entirety here for the week leading up to its release on Sept. 29.

The Avetts — fleshed out to a trio with bassist Bob Crawford, and produced here by Rick Rubin — sound polished and reflective throughout I and Love and You. Toggling between graceful, string-swept ballads ("Ill With Want," "I and Love and You") and comparatively manic rockers ("Kick Drum Heart," "Slight Figure of Speech," "Laundry Room"), the album even indulges both impulses within a single song: The appropriately titled "The Perfect Space" reconciles The Avett Brothers' extremes, finding room for piano, a slow-moving cello and an unexpected "part two" that takes off on a wild-eyed tear.

Like many songs on I and Love and You, "The Perfect Space" captures the Avetts' willingness to infuse their words with genuine insight: "I wanna have friends that I can trust," Scott Avett sings, adding, "that love me for the man I've become, not the man that I was." It's a kind, comfortable song that feels not only lived-in, but also lived. That's how it is with The Avett Brothers' music: Moving and smart, catchy and warm, it's a band — and an album — that anyone could love.

Please leave your thoughts on I and Love and You in the comments section below.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)