14. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
Relentless touring and raucous live shows have helped the Avett Brothers build a cult fanbase. This year was their biggest ever: they sold out massive venues, and their seventh studio album, The Carpenter, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200.
Rick Rubin, known for his stripped-down productions, returned for The Carpenter. Rubin landed on a mature sound for the Avetts, but unlike their last LP, I and Love and You, he seemed to dial back his influence and free up a bit of the band’s real spirit.
The Carpenter keeps the poignancy but picks up the pace. “Live and Die” and “I Never Knew You” bounce with a cheery ease. “Down with the Shine” could easily have been a leftover from Emotionalism. And the distortion on “Paul Newman vs. the Demons” is something new entirely.
While they’re not the stompin’ and hollerin’ band from years past — although their live set hasn’t toned down at all — the Avett Brothers’ honesty and heart still go unmatched.