Seven albums into his career and Kevin Devine is still pulling tricks from up his sleeve. With the crowd funded Bulldozer, Devine took to LA and recorded alongside the cult legend Rob Schanpf (who most notably co-produced a lot of Elliott Smith’s material), and it is with Bulldozer we see a maturer side of Mr. Devine.
Opening up the album is the commanding ‘Now: Navigate!’, which features Devine’s signature intricately detailed lyrics and a commanding strumming pattern. The track up as a perfect introduction to Bulldozer, dipping between different dynamics and with the accompaniment of some subtle orchestration, ‘Now: Navigate!’ is more like a fanfare to introduce the album.’Little Bulldozer’ is a fresh touch of power-pop which perhaps contains Devine’s most infectious, sugar coated chorus to date, “I need you c-c-c-closer, little bulldozer”. The focus on Bulldozer seems to be on melodies, with ‘Couldn’t Be Happier’ sounding akin to something from Elliott Smith’s Figure 8, with layered harmonies and an entrancing chorus making it the most ominous pop song on the record.
The production by Schnapf lends more of a polished adult contemporary atmosphere to compliment Devine’s writing. The luscious instrumentation on ‘Matter of Time’ paves the way for Devine’s simplistic lyrics, which are delivered in such a way that transforms them from an everyday action to something poetic “Sunday is short and slow and lovely, slept in past noon, woke up, made coffee”.
Despite this, Bulldozer feels too concise at only 10 tracks and clocks in at a mere half hour. In reality, it could do with a couple more tracks as it feels a bit abrupt. Although there are moments where Devine bares his teeth (‘From Here’), this is definitely a more meditated effort and feels like the funding from Kickstarter has really helped Kevin Devine reach a higher plain.