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Album Review: Kevin Devine - Between The Concrete And Clouds

Kevin Devine is a re-invigoration of sorts, carrying on the great legacy of the late Elliott Smith, a term he is probably growing weary of. Comparisons aside, Devine's previous efforts include; collaborations with members of Brand New, joining up with close friends Manchester Orchestra to form Bad Books as well a releasing his own material. 2009's 'Brother's Blood' took a step away from the simplistic acoustic arrangements that have grown accustomed in the singer-songwriter genre and instead stepped itself up on dynamics, the bordering 8 minute epic that was the title track, 'Brother's Blood', soon became an anthem for Devine and the album was met with critical acclaim and soon even became a personal favorite. If 'Brother's Blood' merely flirted with the full band arrangement, 'Between the Concrete and Clouds' takes it up a notch with Devine pretty much abandoning the acoustic guitar altogether on this record.

Although Devine has noted in interviews that he has attempted to make the lyrics a lot more simplistic on this album, this isn't the case with all songs, 'A Story, A Sneak' recites a tale, whether it is Devine's or a fictional characters, of an older man in a relationship with a girl just entering University, with some casual lyrical quips that reinforce this such as "You open the door and say age before beauty". The simplistic lyrics in "Off-Screen" and the sonic masterpiece that is "11-17" only make way for musical evolution, the song features a synthesizer solo which is completely new territory for Devine. His expansion on music is also evident in the finalé "I Used to Be Someone" which features some of Devine's best lyrics to date. The song features spacey guitars layered one-by-one on top of each other and the vocal harmonies that close out the song truly close out the album with the listeners wishing for more than a mere 10 songs. That's the only drawback but I can't fault him on creating a cohesive 39 minute atmosphere of interesting sounds and poetic lyrics. Devine's influence drawn from religion is evident with songs such as 'The First Hit' as well as the title track itself describe his alienation within religion, themes of alienation are also prevalent throughout the rest of the album.

The absence of the acoustic guitar on this album may alienate dedicated fans at first, maybe the inclusion of a bonus disc akin to Mansions' stripped back addition to the recent 'Dig Up The Dead' is needed, but the subconscious progression is truly a good one. As Devine croons on the curtain call 'I Used to be Someone', "Rest assured, I used to be someone, a brother's brother and a mother's son", he looks back on previous efforts of "Brother's Blood" and even "Make the Clocks Move" and his bands prior to this project and draws in influence from all of them to pull together "Between the Concrete and Clouds".


George Gadd

'Between the Concrete and Clouds' is out September 13th in North America through Razor & Tie and October 17th in the UK through Big Scary Monsters.

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