Each turn of the calendar at New Year’s brings tradition and hope. For the night itself, for the many opportunities which lie before us and for a carrying on of the memories we created in the previous twelve months. Amid the repeated choruses of “Auld Lang Syne” and Ryan Seacrest’s face invading your television live from Times Square, it can sometimes seem rote to imply that a new year means a fresh start with entirely different ideas to the ones in which we’ve become entrenched. Sometimes, however, retreating to what we know best, a place of comfort, allows us to freely move to a new stage of our lives and get better at whatever it is we’re striving to become, with the people most important to us there for support. Sometimes a combination of the two is the best way.
In the interest of full disclosure, here is a somewhat abridged account of my relationship with the Avett Brothers as a musical entity: one night in the autumn of 2008, when I was probably seventeen years old and a junior in high school, I was riding in the backseat of my friend Carrie’s blue Jeep with two of my other good friends, Justin and Morgan, around the streets and highways of South Carolina. Cycling through the tracks on a mixed CD and/or the shuffle function on her iPod (I can’t remember for certain, but I know there was a huge collection of CDs in that automobile), she landed on something that was new and exciting to me but which had become, to my admittedly much cooler friends, something of a way of life. This was the first time I heard the opening strums of “Die Die Die,” the first song on the 2007 album Emotionalism, and it tore up every Hendrix-laden notion of my personal preferences at the time. Bruce Springsteen once said of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” that it “sounded like somebody kicked open the door to your mind.” In the context of my own teenage taste, the same explosion happened in that Jeep.