Bad Books - Bad Books

Album cover
Acoustic, Indie
Favorite Gentlemen
Bad Books
Bad Books
Bad Books - Bad Books Review rating:
4
User rating:
Average: 4.3 (4 votes)

The prologue to Bad Books’ story takes place in 2007, when Manchester Orchestra and Kevin Devine spent time supporting Brand New. The first chapter picks up almost three years later in early 2010, with the two bands releasing a split EP entitled I Could Be The Only One. Fast forward nine months, and the two acts are ready to unleash the second chapter of their collaborative music, now officially titled Bad Books. Through the ten tracks, the band reveals why the name Bad Books is a misnomer, for they have released one of the stronger indie records of the year.

Despite the difference in Devine and Manchester’s sounds (Devine is renowned for his plaintive acoustic tracks while Manchester’s lead songwriter Andy Hull favors more intricate, “rock-ish” tracks), the two work excellently together. The album is split evenly between primary songwriters, with each act taking credit for five songs. Yet despite this pairing of two skilled, excellent writers, it seems that there is little “true” collaboration between the two acts outside of each singing on the other’s tracks. It is fairly obvious which track was written by Devine, and which ones can be credited to­ Hull.

Yet despite the lack of true collaboration, the ten songs on this album are excellently written and produced. The Hull-written opener “How This All Ends” begins with beautiful harmonies, and a sparse melody and is fueled by Hull’s emotionally-charged voice. Following the opener is “The Easy Mark & The Maid,” a signature Devine acoustic track. While true to Devine’s traditional sound, the song is enhanced with harmonies courtesy of Manchester Orchestra. And so the record continues on in this manner, with Manchester Orchestra and Devine trading off primary songwriting duties for ten excellent tracks, with Manchester’s sonically beautiful tracks (with the highlight being “Please Move”) serving as the perfect counterpoint to Devine’s soft acoustic numbers (with “Mesa, AZ” leading the charge of gorgeous numbers)

Overall, Bad Books is anything but. All ten tracks display the work of two men who are masters at their craft. Hull’s Manchester Orchestra tracks are simply gorgeous, while Devine’s subdued acoustic songs are stunning. In fact, the only downside to the album is the lack of true collaboration between the artists. A collaboration between such highly regarded figures in indie music created expectations of music that would’ve somehow combined the work of Manchester Orchestra and Kevin Devine, yet all the listener received were five Manchester Orchestra tracks featuring Kevin Devine, and five Kevin Devine tracks featuring Andy Hull. If Bad Books is going to be a continuing project (which both artists have indicated it will be) rather than a one-time collaboration, my only advice to them is to try blurring the lines between Manchester Orchestra and Kevin Devine’s traditional sounds. Such a meshing of sound would turn the good music of Bad Books into a true classic.

1. How This All Ends
2. The Easy Mark & The Old Maid
3. Baby Shoes
4. You're A Mirror I Cannot Avoid
5. Holding Down The Laughter
6. You Wouldn't Have To Ask
7. I Begged You Everything
8. Please Move
9. Mesa, AZ
10. Texas

Bad Books simply put is Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra.

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Did You Know?

Batman
Batman says... "Manchester Orchestra member Christopher Freeman is an avid fan of Gossip Girls."

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