After a rapidly successful Kickstarter campaign, Kevin Devine has released two albums— Bulldozer and Bubblegum. Bubblegum is a full-band record with The Goddamn Band and Brand New’s Jesse Lacey in the producer’s chair, but that’s a different story. For Bulldozer (his seventh studio album), Devine partnered with Rob Schnapf, who produced his 2006 record Put Your Ghost To Rest (as well as landmark albums from artists such as Beck, Dr. Dog and Elliott Smith). Devine and Schnapf handle most of the instrumentation, with Russell Pollard on drums and Elijah Thomson on bass to provide a wonderfully solid foundation. Belle & Sebastian’s Isobel Campbell lends her voice to “For Eugene,” making the somber and mostly acoustic tune about Hurricane Sandy that much more piercing as they sing of the rising water. There isn’t a bad track on Bulldozer. Devine and Schnapf clearly have a chemistry that works, and it’s good to hear them together again. The arrangements are compelling and executed to a T.
In comparison to its immediate successor, Bulldozer is a gentler amalgamation of the sounds Devine has been nurturing for years—first as the singer/guitarist of Miracle of 86, then recording his six previous albums as well as two with Bad Books, a collaboration with friends and tourmates Manchester Orchestra. Devine blends folk, punk, rock and pop sounds into songs with intricate guitar parts reminiscent of Elliott Smith and flowing melodies that can’t help but stay in your head.
“From Here” and “Couldn’t Be Happier” are two of the softer songs on the album and two examples of Devine’s lyrical prowess on this album. The first is about the destruction Sandy left to New York with a sense of community and resilience, as Devine sings: “We’re from here / And nothing changes that / We’re from here / And nothing changes that / We’re from here / We’ll build each other back.” “Couldn’t Be Happier” has the singer looking back and coming to terms with wounds from the past: “In context, the progress is difficult to see / It’s increments, not mile jumps / The grace collects and waits for us / To catch up.”
“Little Bulldozer” is truly a track that shines (and the one that garnered the majority of my plays). Devine has a knack for melodies, and this a prime example of how good he can be. “She Can See Me” is the only song to also appear on both albums. This version is a straightforward rock song that should get your feet moving pretty quickly with its thundering drums and driving guitars.
The only real concern upon finishing Bulldozer is the overwhelming realization that Devine has another brand new album that I gave .1 more points. Maybe you should drink some water.