November 18, 2010

Test Spins: Bad Books

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Kevin Devine and Andy Hull have been collaborating for years. On more than one occasion, Devine has supported Hull’s band Manchester Orchestra out on the road. Additionally, the two released a split EP together back in January. So, it should come as little surprise that the duo would make their partnership official. Yet it seems that Devine and Hull were merely looking for a way to pass time.

Pleased with what he and Devine had concocted, Hull called upon the rest of Manchester Orchestra to fill out the ranks of Bad Books. The resulting self-titled debut is an interesting mix of acoustic folk and southern alt-rock, running a brisk 35 minutes.

The dichotomy between Hull’s material and Devine’s is pretty clear. Each of the songwriters contributed five tracks to the album, with Devine’s works being the more reserved. That isn’t to say that Hull’s are necessarily stronger, or that the album doesn’t work as a whole, only that each of the singers have unique style they don’t stray too far from.

Among Devine’s tracks, the standouts are “The Easy Mark & The Old Maid” and “You’re A Mirror I Cannot Avoid.” The former of the two is an art pop number similar to the Beach Boys, while the latter’s unadorned arrangement allows Devine’s breathtaking lyrics to take center stage. Devine also contributed the lead single, “You Wouldn’t Have To Ask,” which is quite memorable despite how short it is.

Of Hull’s contribution’s, “Baby Shoes” is the most captivating. The song builds throughout; reinforcing the true musicianship of the band’s remaining members. Hull is also responsible for the heart wrenching “Please Move,” the harmonies of which make it one of album’s more intriguing numbers.

Hull was recently quoted as saying “We are not a one-time thing … we aren’t gonna be just a band that has one record.” It’ll be exciting to see what comes next.

Original Author: Wesley Ambrecht