Kevin Devine and Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra) combined for a mediocre (my opinion) album in 2010 under the moniker Bad Books. This second LP, II, is much more defined, sounding like a true new band, rather than a collaboration. Like in Dr. Dog, the two songwriters trade quite a bit through the record, but not without the other's harmonic support.

Upon first listen, it didn't seem too special, but after a few spins, I found it stuck to me quite well. "The After Party," the LP's opening track, is urgent and reflective, sort of reminiscent of Spiritual Machines era Our Lady Peace. It smokes and builds before exploding on itself. Devine's "No Reward" is more straightforward, and sets this solid record in motion. The single (is that even a thing anymore?) "Forest Whitaker" is different still, with some electronic flares and Shins-esque whistle chorus. Also, the guitar solo is pretty sweet.

The album gets better from there. The lyrics are powerful and simple, as in the chorus of "It Never Stops" he begs: "you know, I know, I wanna love you but I can't let go" or "the leaves laughed, the bed burned, I know I want you, but I’m waiting my turn." The songs all have a bit of an anthemic quality, but the instrumentation is too good turn cheesy.

"Pytor" is supposedly about Peter the Great. From the perspective of the head.

The modern sound slides back a few decades with "Petite Mort" a soft galloping tune with a great chord progression, and here the two singers' voices glue together perfectly. I could listen to that one over and over again. Then, it feels like the electricity goes out and "42" a sleepy story we've all told, or at least heard, breaks hearts.

Even though this type of record has been done many times over, Bad Books finally sounds like a band that knows what it wants. It seems the accomplished members are more comfortable letting it do what it needs to do. The sky is the limit for the third.