After five years honing a form of fuzzed-up pop-rock playing shows in a three-piece band, something had to give when Kevin Devine came to write his next full-length. Out are the heavy drums and Nirvana dirt of his power chords, in are weird synthesisers, samples and a more off-kilter take on indie-folk crafted remotely with producer Chris Bracco. It would be tempting to put this change in direction purely down to a change in circumstances over the past year, this was part of the plan. “I thought I could make a record completely at home and then send it to different collaborators to build on. Then I thought I’d make a bedroom folk record that was sparse but with weird arrangements,” Kevin told Upset way back in January 2019.
While it would be easy to crave more sugar rush songs like 2013’s ‘Bubblegum’, he conjures something far more considered here. ‘How Can I Help You’ combines a sequenced arpeggio with insistent guitar strums and a gentle vocal, casting a dreamy haze. In keeping with the musical direction, the record is more introverted lyrically than its predecessors, eschewing hollered rhetoric and tackling divorce, raising a child while dealing with the jarring horror of the news cycle. The slightly wonky arrangements and experimentation combine with Kevin’s natural gift for empathetic songwriting to make an album that stands alone in his canon. As he sings on the hypnotic mantra of ‘Albatross’, “If you’re sinking sing along, Nothing’s real so nothing’s wrong.”