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.