Published Oct 19, 2016Kevin Devine is a powerful storyteller. Whether set to the tender strum of an acoustic guitar or amplified, encompassing riffs, each of his lyrics paint a picture. Though his writing reflects deeply personal thoughts and experiences, it resonates universally, even when he's touching on difficult subjects; on Instigator, that means September 11, and the 2015 murder of Baltimore teenager Freddie Gray by police. These conversations that are hard to have, but are also the most necessary, and Devine lives up to the album's title by taking it upon himself to be an instigator of them.
His ninth album in the span of 10 years, not including various splits and EPs, Devine maintains his introspective songwriting while working the issues at hand today into it. "Freddie Gray Blues" shines as the record's most monumental track, as Devine reflects on his family's history of police officers while acknowledging the deeply rooted issue of white privilege: "I'm afforded the luxury of shaking my head / Shut the screen, go to bed / I can shut off but you never can." He cuts to the core of what so many know but find hard to admit. The 9/11-inspired "No History" is similarly biting, and will leave the lyric "This is the future: severe and always happening" ringing through your head long after the track has ended.
Instigator finds Devine aging like fine wine and stands out as his most important album yet. (Procrastinate! Music Traitors)