Kevin Devine – Starter for Ten

Starter For Ten is a series where I choose my ten favourite songs of my favourite artists – a starter kit for anyone new. And also a conversation starter for you to select your own ten favourite songs.

I’ve started with Kevin Devine as he’s been my favourite musician for a number of years. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve seen him play live, every time he announces a gig in London I buy a ticket. Thinking about it, I haven’t seen anyone play live more. It also means the rest of the series will be relatively easy compared to choosing my top ten favourite KevDev songs.

I’ve been chopping and changing my playlist for 2 3 4 weeks now… That’s how hard this has been.

I first heard about Kevin’s music on Absolute Punk (RIP). I think Just Stay was on their recommended playlist on their sidebar. Listened to and fell in love with Put Your Ghost To Rest (lives in my car CD player) and have been following his career every since.

As Kevin has admitted himself on the Live at St Pancras Old Church record, he has a 70 year old’s amount of records (still one of my favourite gigs I’ve been to. Each seat had a number and he called one out at random, that number chose a song. I was one number away from requesting a song!) So choosing just ten is a huge challenge for me.

The only rule (if you can call it that) is you can’t pick anything from side projects (It Never Stops by Bad Books would have been definite contender).

It’s not a greatest hits or singles collection either, it makes it more interesting to pick songs that you’ve connected with and are personal to you.

Here are my ten favourite Kevin Devine songs

Brooklyn Boy

Kevin came into my life at the height of my emo-ness. So lyrics on Brooklyn Boy like these struck a chord with me:

You still can change, you have to know, you still can change
I know, I know, for now I wanna be this way

This was a choice, this was never a mistake

Just Stay

The song that introduced me to his music. I love the way the song continues to build as more instruments join, it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand as Kevin shouts ‘I’m okay, okay’.

No Time Flat

To be honest, I just really like the melody. It was years later when I really listened to the lyrics that I discovered it’s political tone, which are still pretty relevant today.

So I’m not sure why I vote
Cause I just don’t know what difference it makes
It seems to me we get the same shit from them both

Cotton Crush

I’ve gone with the Matter of Time with the Goddamn Band version. It’s just that little bit more aggressive on the vocals where I can’t help but pump my fist while singing and playing air drums at the chorus.

The quiet can scrape
All the calm from your bones,
But maybe it should.
Maybe we need to be hollowed
To get up and grow,
And stop fucking around,
To kick off our braces and start straightening out.

No One Else’s Problem

This makes me jump around the room.

But then we kept rewriting and revising it.
Rehashing and repeating
It was bad for us both.
And I was passive aggressive I’m sorry,
I was anxious to let it all go


And this too. I like to mimic the bunny hop Kevin does live to this song.

Heavy bass lines and fuzzy punk shredding, it’s why the Bubblegum album is in my top three favourite albums of his and was different from anything he’d released previously, showing his versatility.

And then I found out
My heart’s a bloodhound
Always searching

I Could Be With Anyone

Another song where I adore the melody, starting out slowly before enticing you to stop what you’re doing, pogo and gang chant wherever you are.

A tempting sample of who I could be
Without the broken glasses waiting underneath


This one is a little difficult to listen to as my ex liked this song (I introduced her to Kevin Devine at a live show). She mentioned how she related to the lyrics. Now we’ve broken up (messy break up, bad relationship in hindsight), I see what she meant.

And I’ve driven away all the
People that could help

I loved the song before much for the same reasons if truth be told.

And when you realize it’s a pattern
And not a phase

Brother’s Blood

I couldn’t decide whether to choose the live version from St Pancras Church or the Matter of Time version. Both are very different animals.

This track is beautiful acoustic, contrasted with Kevin shouting from the back of the church. It does highlight what a great voice and guitar player he is. I’ve always admired the way he rearranges his songs for his acoustic solo gigs.

All that dialogue doublin’ back on me
All that tangled talk
All my growling need
It’s my brother’s back
It’s my father’s arms
It’s every twisted fact
In my sorry heart
My sorry heart, my sorry heart

I Was Alive Back Then

I love the lyrics. The imagery of welcoming past selves at various ages to sit. I can see myself doing that, each with different and goofy hairstyles and dress sense. Again, I can relate so much to the lyrics:

You treat yourself unfairly
Don’t treat yourself unfairly.”

Scared of living
Scared of dying
Scared of being happy
I couldn’t let myself be happy

It inspires hope for the future, or just how far you’ve come and how things are better, you are better than before.

But all your fear is just confetti
Let it blow all ’round your bedroom
When it gets too heavy
Don’t let it get too heavy

I was alive back then
I remember when
I was alive back then
Now, I am again

I’m happy with this selection, for now.

He’s playing at The Camden Assembly on Wednesday 16th January. It’s already the highlight of my year.

What are your top ten favourite Kevin Devine songs? Tell me in the comments section below!

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