Kevin Devine: Between the Concrete and the Clouds

kevin devine, Between the Concrete and the CloudsKevin Devine: Between the Concrete and the Clouds
Kevin Devine’s sixth studio release Between the Concrete and the Clouds, is the perfect illustration of a man in transition, be it good or ill. Career-wise Mr. Devine is nearing veteran status, however his latest offering shows an alarming lack of growth in regards to style, especially lyrically. While listening to the album I couldn’t help but feel a lack of direction and a general inability to nail down emotions. Perhaps this is due to his self-acknowledged alteration of the song writing process.
After touring relentlessly for years in promotion of his last album, Brother’s Blood, along with a side project Bad Books, Mr. Devine took a more professional approach to composition, in his words, “So I started to go into our rehearsal space almost like someone going in to his office, from like 2 to 7 o’clock every day. I was coming up with melodies and multi-tracking ideas, and not worrying about lyrics right away.”
This is directly apparent upon first hearing Concrete and Clouds. Unlike earlier works, the production value shows a definite shift into contemporary pop packaging, but this only comes at the sacrifice of songwriting. In addition to an over-abundance of the second person pronoun, (the subject of his songs can become confusing, wait… is he singing to me, about this girl, society in general, himself, who?) the vague concepts and general-to-the-point-of-cliché metaphors would lead one to believe a much younger, much less experienced artist was behind Concrete and Clouds. And though thanks to the production value the album is sonically superior to his previous efforts, the individual tracks still lack an element of specific direction and premeditated musical composition. For the first time it seems this singer/songwriter had a band behind him, but for this work he failed to take full advantage of it.
For the album as a whole, the highs aren’t particularly high, and neither are the lows particularly low. Through-out the whole listening experience one can’t help but instinctively reach out for the next track button in the hopes of something better just around the corner. But I don’t wish to paint a complete picture, because there are two tracks which stand in contrast to the whole showing just what Kevin Devine could be. Track three, “Sleepwalking through My Life,” really should have been the title track, the album’s namesake. Not only does Mr. Devine pin down the targeted emotion with clarity, but the use of waltz-timing and a shimmering, almost liquid melody propels the song into a force of itself. But sadly this is almost an island for the album which seems to meander in the mid-tempo range until eventually spilling out to an anti-climatic finish. The only other track showing promise is “Wait Out the Wreck.” It could be considered a response to “Sleepwalking,” in the form of a hopeful sunrise to the night’s gloom. Unfortunately, two stand alones do not an album make.
I might be wrong about everything, but to me, Between the Concrete and the Clouds, was the best possible name for this work. It’s somewhere out there, not the best and certainly not the worst, just well, mediocre, leaving the audience scratching their heads and wondering what they’ve just gone through. I give it a solid but hopeful score of five while at the same time encourage you to download “Sleepwalking through My Life,” Mr. Levine’s most solid track.
Rating: 5.0/10
MP3: Kevin Devine “Sleepwalking Through My Life”
Buy: iTunes or Insound!

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