The Avett Brother’s “Kick Drum Heart” is a ditty. There’s really no other way to label it. That’s certainly not a bad thing in this instance, except maybe to a percentage of the band’s diehard fans.
Those diehards decry the emerging piano, the glossier production and the fading banjo in the group’s sound, some even whispering the dreaded term “sellout.” There’s no denying the Avetts’ sound has changed some since the days of the original The Gleam EP and the epic Mignonette, but have they lost any of the spark that propelled them from a frenzied folk/newgrass/Americana band with a cult following to a buzz band with a major label debut helmed by the omnipresent Rick Rubin?
I say no, based on this, their most radio-ready release to date.
“Kick Drum Heart” is a gimmicky, plinking delight of a pop-Americana tune without a hint of irony. Delivered with all the gusto of any previous number one can name from the band (Die Die Die, Please Pardon Yourself, etc), the track is a smilingly sincere song driven by keys (including xylophone), tight vocals and, fittingly, a kick drum. For even casual fans of this style of music, it’s damn near irresistible.
Would it be perfect as the background music for a smart phone or car commercial? Probably, but a lot of other great songs have fit that description. The commercialness of this song isn’t a negative; it’s part of its strength, being so unrepentantly accessible and sunny as to stir ire in only the coldest of souls. The refrain of “My my my heart like a kick-drum” followed by a response from the said percussive instrument is simple and entirely satisfying.
Honestly, I too prefer The Avett Brothers as a more focused string band, burning up the banjos and acoustics at breakneck speed. As a whole, their current album I and Love and You was a letdown in that regard. This song, however, is a gem, and proves that the band can show a more pop-leaning side without losing any of the vigor and musical craftsmanship that brought them this far.