Artist: Kevin Devine
Label: Favorite Gentlemen
Due Out: April 28th
Sorry if the beginning of this sounds an awful lot like my review of Manchester Orchestra's latest effort, but well, there's a lot of similarities- all of which are positive. Kevin Devine's newest release, Brother's Blood, is everything you'd expect it to be. His singer-songwriter nature, the southern influence that comes out of nowhere (he's from Brooklyn), and the conflict he feels both internally and externally. Still, it feels like Devine grows up a little bit here (not that his old material was immature), and seems more comfortable in his own skin. I'll compliment it from the get-go as a truly enjoyable listening experience, and just offer some advance notice that many readers who frequent his work will be pleasantly surprised and intrigued by what you hear.
The record starts with "All of Everything, Erase," a track which fits in nicely with anything that Kevin's ever done before. It's a quick-tempo acoustic number setting up the themes of the record, most of which I outlined in the opening paragraph. There's another element here though, and that's his stress on freedom within the lyrics. Political statement or personal statement, either way, he seems "free" of something, and much more at ease than he's ever been. The next track, "Carnival" (featured on this site a month or so ago) is still what I said it was then- a moody roller coaster that lulls you into a sense of security multiple times before finally opening up and giving you that trademark Kevin Devine agony wail. It's all about bad dreams, according to him, something easily seen by the listener. As the ending dissipates into the start of "Time to Burn (Another Bag of Bones)," you start to sense a building tension in the music and vocals, seemingly just waiting to erupt at the right moment. Throughout the record, there are many tense swells of emotions, as he reaches that line right before the breaking point, only to retreat again and start over. The production value on these tracks, along with the background noise, are superior to the artist's older work, and like I said earlier, shows some real signs of him coming into his own.
From there, it's "Hand of God (When You Breathe...Breathe)," an uptempo track about getting over and moving on. Even with the subject matter though, it's not depressing, but rather, fun to listen to. Song structures have become more complex on this record, and there are some real layers and personalities to every song. Next up, the title track, "Brother's Blood," which could, at times, substitute in for a Brand New song, and overall, is some real, legit rock and roll. It's still weird to type that, but I remember I thought it the first time I heard this song. Once the guitar solo kicked in (I know, a Kevin Devine guitar solo? but it works), with its soaring echo effect and later, the screaming over it all, I was floored. I anticipate you will be too if you've ever listened to him before this record. The middle then starts to mellow out. "Fever Moon" brings us a much more intimate experience than the previous song, as Kevin does his best job at writing an 80s love duet, with surprisingly positive results. The next two tracks will be familiar to fans of Daytrotter, as both "It's Only Your Life" and "Murphy's Song" were featured during his session on the site. They're both the type of songs you'd expect from him, just more grown-up. However, one point of interest is the short interlude into Department of Eagles "No One Does It Like You" intro at the 1:30 mark of "Murphy's Song".
And then you hear a pop beat, in the only sense that Kevin Devine could pull it off- with an acoustic guitar and a drum machine. What starts off slow in "I Could Be With Anyone" suddenly turns into a bright and synth-y pop track, very uncharacteristic of him, yet somehow, appropriate on this album of firsts for the artist. The pleasant surprises are some of the album's best aspects, and this song's no exception. "Yr Husband" has a similar effect, starting off sounding like a Devine standby before shifting gears, lightening up, and incorporating more effects than I've ever heard him use, culminating in a solo to complete the track. The last song, instead of being a sorry, sad and slow number, incorporates Devine's best friend, Brand New's Jesse Lacey, to create "Tomorrow's Just Too Late". It's still acoustic, but the harmonies work to perfection as the two croon about a bittersweet ending, both within the relationship of the song and the album itself.
Positive growth. That's all I ask for when returning to an artist's work, and Kevin Devine delivered in a way I'd never expected. The sound was together, mature and refined, yet still true to his nature. He tried some new things, but never seemed to be struggling with it. It was ambitious, yet conservative. All-in-all, I don't think fans of the man could be much happier with the product they got out of this one. The high point may exist in the middle, but the rest of the album is worth the listen, as each song tries to spin what he normally does in one direction or another. I'm still impressed as I'm writing this, and I can guarantee you'll feel the same. Similarities include Colour Revolt, Cassino and I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody's Business.
Best Track: "Brother's Blood" (Not up on Imeem, so here's "Hand of God")