Kevin Devine: Brother’s Blood

Music Reviews Kevin Devine
Kevin Devine: Brother’s Blood

Poetic songwriter goes for the jugular

Brooklyn singer/songwriter Kevin Devine works the familiar emo terrain of spurned lovers, broken hearts and self-loathing, but he’s such a canny writer and careful observer of human nature that his morose ruminations take on the aura of poetry. An admitted disciple of the late Elliott Smith, Devine has mastered Smith’s penchant for disarmingly lovely melodies that mask a brooding desperation. Unlike Smith, whose music became increasingly baroque with bigger labels and larger recording budgets, Brother’s Blood keeps it simple—albeit louder and more dissonant than Devine’s previous four efforts. His deft acoustic folk fingerpicking anchors almost all these songs, but there are stylistic leaps galore, including the winding Neil Young/Crazy Horse slow burn of the title track, and the tortured “Carnival,” which starts off soft and shimmering and warps into a Pinkerton-era Weezer tantrum. But make no mistake—the songwriting is the real highlight here, and Devine’s scathing observations and idiosyncratic details leave a disquieting mark. “Hand of God” marries swooning Simon and Garfunkel harmonies with a poetic, cosmic meditation on human suffering and the absence of divine intervention. There’s no bridge over these troubled waters, but there’s blood, filial and otherwise, swirling in the currents.

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