Bad Books - II
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Record Label: Triple Crown
Plenty of good things come in the form of dynamic duos, but a new dynamic duo has revealed itself in the last two years in the form of Bad Books, the musical love child of Andy Hull and Kevin Devine.
It goes without saying that Hull and Devine come from different neighborhoods of the music spectrum. Hull sings in the fantastic, romping indie rock band, Manchester Orchestra and Devine is a solo artist who dabbles in everything from folk music to alternative rock.
After coming together in 2010 to create Bad Books, the two musicians released their first album, “Bad Books.” While the album was good in the practical sense, it lacked cohesiveness. Two years later, the group has released their new album simply titled II, a better and more consistent album than its predecessor.
Opening track “The After Party” displays the collaboration between Hull and Devine at its finest. The tune begins with an ambient, dark guitar riff that floats throughout the entire song and complements Hull’s soft crooning extremely well. The chorus shows the connection between the two artists as Devine quietly harmonizes with Hull as he sings “It’s so good to be alone” repeatedly in the chorus. The track ends dramatically as Hull brings out his signature brash vocals to finish the song as loud guitars and drums crash around him.
“Forest Whitaker” sounds completely different than any other song on the album, but it does not disrupt the flow of the record, and the single adds a new element to the band’s already budding repertoire. Featuring a hint of pop music unheard in their previous songs, catchy whistles, muted guitars and an electronic drum, “Forest Whitaker” comes out of complete left field with its appearance on the record. The track may not feature a huge, memorable chorus, but it shows that Bad Books isn't afraid to let the creative juices flow and go outside of their comfort zone to write a song.
Hull brings his A-game on “Pyotr” and crafts one of the standout tracks in the album without the help of Devine. With only an acoustic guitar and his strong, soaring voice, Hull sings the sad tale of a love triangle and its ramifications. “Pyotr” never changes pace or has any more instruments come into the tune: Hull strums an acoustic guitar and bears his soul. The track is one of the best songs Hull has ever written and it resonates as a powerful, beautiful number that pulls at every heartstring.
Hull and Devine have proven that they are two of the best songwriters in music, and their work on II is no different. Over the years, Hull has gained a reputation for his insightful and honest lyrics. Tracks like “Pyotr” and “42” display his strong lyricism as he tackles topics from alcoholism, love and anxiety.
Devine is no slouch in the lyric department either though. Devine has garnered acclaim for his ability to tell brilliant stories in his songs while also having bright, introspective lyrics. His personal lyrics on the closing track “Ambivalent Plans” and great storytelling on “Lost Creek” are testaments to his talents as a songwriter and show that Devine can definitely hold his own with Hull.
II definitely features no shortage of rock songs, but the two tracks that stick out on the album are “It Never Stops” and “No Sides.” Both tunes are sung primarily by Devine, and they are two of more upbeat songs on the album. “It Never Stops” begins with a choppy guitar riff that builds throughout the song as Devine displays his smooth singing skills effortlessly, and it features one of the best chorus’s on the album. “No Sides” is a jam that starts with a guitar riff that would fit in on any Kevin Devine solo album, and the track is a rocking tune from beginning to end.
Bad Books has broken through and recorded a great follow-up to their debut album. While their first album featured missteps that caused the album to be mediocre, Bad Books came back in a big way with II, a product of cohesive effort that displays the talents of Hull and Devine.