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Listen to Kevin Devine’s Smart, Timely Ninth Album, ‘Instigator’

The Brooklyn songwriter perfectly blends seriousness with catchy hooks.

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Kevin Devine has never had that breakout album that made him a household name. "Like, Cursive had The Ugly Organ, and Bright Eyes had Lifted," he recently told me. "I never had that." But it wasn't with defeat that he said this. It was gratitude. Artists who have a mega-hit are often doomed to forever be chasing that success again. Instead, Devine has enjoyed a long, prolific career, over which he has released numerous solid records—none smash hits, but all respectable in their own rights. And now, he is adding another to that impressive catalog with Instigator.


Instigator, Devine's ninth album, earns its place among his discography. It kicks off with the fast-paced, incredibly catchy opener, "No Why," before eventually easing into the acoustic "Freddie Gray Blues," a song that laments the luxury of white privilege amidst the country's reaction to police brutality. Over the next few tracks, Devine perfectly threads together the various styles he has amassed in his arsenal—from sincere folk to bombastic rock, rife with heavy distortion and peppered with Reggie and the Full Effect-style synth melodies. On songs like "Both Ways" and "Magic Magnet," it feels like Devine is downright showing off his gift for addictive hook-writing.

Instigator is a smart and timely album that meanders but still keeps its balance. It might not make Devine a household name, but that's a good thing.

Procrastinate! Music Traitors will release Instigator on October 21. You can listen to the whole thing early below. Devine is on tour soon with Julien Baker, Petal, and Pinegrove. Dates at the bottom.