I guess I’m still at the point as a listener of independent music (and thereby an extension of my being human) where my opinion of how popular an artist is or isn’t is still flawed. This might have more to do with internal projections of what should be more popular rather the actual level of fame for that artist.
It also could be chalked up to spending so much time listening to a particular genre or band and seeing similar groups become popular. For instance, because Manchester Orchestra and Bad Books kind of both blew up (relatively speaking), that Kevin Devine has ascended into another echelon of popularity. And in some ways, this may be true, but I guess it’s a perception issue on my part as someone who so closely follows music news and trends and such.
I bring up the point because it’s again time to revisit my developing man crush on KevDev.
I’ve only been a fan for less than two years because I am repugnant and disappointing to those around me. I had listened to a handful of his songs sometime in 2011 and enjoyed them, but not enough to actively seek out the rest of his catalogue. It wasn’t until seeing him open for mewithoutYou last August that I was sold, hand and foot at that. His live show is captivating in ways that seem almost so simple, it’s a wonder other acoustic solo artists haven’t employed them before. Things like stepping away from the microphone to scream and shout and sing, but not for volume effect – rather, to ply his audience into just being quiet for a minute and listening instead of documenting the entire show on their phone.
Watching KevDev traipse around the stage of State Theatre, I was fascinated by his ability to command control of the audience. It was one of the rare times I’d heard State that quiet in spite of being 3/4ths full. The song that really set the hooks was “Off-Screen,” the opener from today’s record. It’s easily a top-3 KD tune.
Since that show, I’ve flung myself into his catalogue, and as yet, today’s album Between The Concrete & Clouds and Split the Country, Split the Street are my favorites.
There are moments on Devine’s 6th album that are stop-you-in-your-tracks enthralling in the same way that he crafts his live shows – like the last minute and a half of “11-17.” Often when a section of a song is so good, I’m downright desperate for that moment to be expanded or go on longer than it does. The final 90 seconds of that song just is not enough.
Elsewhere, KevDev tackles a wide-ranging variety of topics: PTSD (“Awake in the Dirt”); questioning religion (“The First Hit” and “Between the Concrete and Clouds”); quitting drugs (“Wait Out the Wreck”); and getting swallowed up whole by NYC (“The City Has Left You Alone”).
This might be a bit on the distracting side to some listeners because of lack of continuity amongst the album’s themes. But as a fellow scatterbrained person, I identify with his melange of topics.
And, bonus reason for Bad Books fans to scope this record: “A Story, A Sneak” sounds very much like an outtake from his “other” band.
Whatever Devine is doing, he’s doing it right.
From Between The Concrete & Clouds, this is its closer “I Used to Be Someone” –
Standout tracks: “Off-Screen” and “I Used to Be Someone”
Weakest track: Nah.
RIYL: Manchester Orchestra, Bad Books, anything on Favorite Gentlemen, mewithoutYou, Thrice, Dustin Kensrue’s solo stuff.