Kevin Devine’s “I Was Alive Back Then” is a song to sum up the many songs between now and back then: “I was 23 and crazy / frightened, overwhelmed and angry.” Devine sings that as a floating melody that lays an unembellished calm over his many lives (don’t worry, he “saves seats for [his] selves”). Now, in the reimagined acoustic version, Half Waif’s Nandi Rose Plunkett provides backing vocals that turn selves into ghosts.
“I Was Alive Back Then” is off of last year’s Instigator, a title that’s proven to be self-fulfilling, as Devine is now recording all of Instigator’s songs acoustically for a new album called We Are Who We’ve Always Been—it comes out Oct. 20 and features Mynabirds, Swiv and of course, Half Waif. Devine’s also planning a set of shows in Brooklyn, including one at the Bellhouse on Dec. 14 where he’ll perform We Are Who We’ve Always Been and Make the Clocks Move, and one on Dec. 16 where he’ll dip into Instigator and 2006’s Put Your Ghost to Rest.
During his career, Devine has released over nine albums and they’ve dealt with dragging baggage into an uncertain future. What’s truly an accomplishment is the grace with which the songwriter revisits the past (past albums included): He accepts his flawed, living, thriving, lonely self. One self to another.
Revisit Rachel Brodsky’s account of Devine post-Instigator here, listen to his new take on “I Was Alive Back Then” below and further down, watch him perform the track in the Paste Studio. You can pre-order We Are Who We’ve Always Been here.