Bad Books: Bad Books

Razor & Tie/RSM

Bad Books, the brainchild of Brooklyn singer Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra vocalist Andy Hull, prove a worthy ensemble on their self-titled debut. The group combines lonely, folk-style riffs with trembling vocals and sobering imagery ("jittery and paranoid/a leaky battery you can't keep charged," goes one line) on tracks like the highlight "You're a Mirror I Can't Avoid," creating an ambient sense of atmosphere. Elsewhere, they aim for more straightforward rock, as on the soaring number "You Wouldn't Have to Ask." There is grunge influence at work on "Please Move," which makes sense considering all of the Nirvana and Pavement references that Devine throws around in interviews. But make no mistake: The group has carved out a singular identity, and with Bad Books it pulls off a tricky balance. Longingly sung, introspective and nostalgic, the record nonetheless sounds great played at max volume. It is muscular, but very poetic guitar rock. (3 out of 5 stars)