Last we heard from Brooklyn singer-songwriter Kevin Devine, he was part of Bad Books, a songwriting collaboration with Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull that married Devine’s uber-literate lyrics with Hull’s muscular, harmonic songwriting. Now, Devine’s back with his sixth solo album, Between the Concrete and Clouds (out Sept. 13), and its first single, “Off-Screen,” picks up where Bad Books left off. It premieres exclusively below.
Kevin Devine, “Off-Screen” (DOWNLOAD)
A slow-building growler, “Off-Screen” commences with a twangy guitar riff and dramatic tom pounding that pans from left to right. While Devine coos a phrase about hazy daydreams, Neil Young-style gashes of guitar spike up like stalagmites, ultimately climaxing, after nearly two minutes, in a taut, Nada Surf-ian chorus whose urgency belies the deliberate walk-up.
“I think you’re always influenced by your friends, especially when they’re good and they challenge you,” Devine tells SPIN. “Making Bad Books made me a better singer, and made me seek out more and better harmonies, because that’s something Andy is really good at.” All of that comes to bear on “Off-Screen,” where Devine layers his vocals atop the thick crescendos in the chorus, and creates a call-and-response interplay in the verses.
It’s not just the vocal arrangements that are expansive. Sonically, the new album takes advantage of the Goddamn Band, his six-piece backing ensemble, and while Between the Concrete and Clouds is listed under “Kevin Devine” in record stores for the sake of consistency across all retailers, he’s quick to point out that it’s a full-band effort, like 2009’s Brother’s Blood.
“The band is more solid and ‘a-part-of’ than ever,” he explains, noting that physical copies of Between have “the Goddamn Band” printed on the spine. “If I wasn’t 10-plus years in as ‘me,’ I’d strongly consider changing the project’s name to reflect that, but it seems like a kind of insecure and reactionary move that I don’t need to make in order to let those dudes know how valuable they are to this music. I’m confident they’re well aware.”
Between the Concrete and Clouds arrives Sept. 13, and Devine has mapped out a North American tour this fall beginning Sept. 6 in Pittsburgh. The tour’s first leg gets support from Tennessee rockers the Features, and Australian pop duo An Horse on the second. See the full schedule on Devine’s Facebook page.