Devon Church- Strange Strangers

by | Apr 12, 2023 | Reviews

Devon Church Strange Strangers (photo by Roeg Cohen)


On his new album Strange Strangers, singer-songwriter Devon Church pulled from many inspirations—nature, the Bible, relationships, Buddhism—melding musings on love and spirituality into gorgeously composed folk and alt-country songs with lush production and delicate melodies. It’s a natural step forward from his debut, 2018’s We Are Inextricable. On that album, Church had explored his folk tendencies while still treading the electronic and pop territory of his previous group Exitmusic. Unsurprisingly, Church draws comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan (Desire-era vibes are high here) and is indeed inspired by them, but fans of 2000’s artists like Crooked Fingers and Jason Molina will find a lot to love in this record as well. 


There is a slowly rolling vintage country feel to much of the album, but the extra touches like synths and guitar effects bring it up to modern speed. Church dual wields songwriting skills and musicianship, performing all the instruments himself except for violin (Jesse Kotansky) and drums and hand percussion on “Ephemera” (Gabriel Galvin and Chris Campisi respectively). Also present through much of the album are the backing vocals of Church’s wife Ada Roth. Her voice is not just there for extra color, but provides another set of bones for the songs, supporting Church’s low croon from above. Roth is also an accomplished artist, and contributed artwork for the record and direction for the stunning video for “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” which is also credited to Church and Jared Van Fleet.



The lyrics hold a number of Biblical references, yet Church notes that the “use of biblical imagery is often a foil for other cosmic messages—gleaned from psychedelics, love affairs, Buddhism and Kafka.” Indeed, lines like “rolling the stone from my tomb into a pornographic sunrise” (”Slouching Towards Bethlehem”) and “Jesus was a genius, but I prefer his earlier stuff / no one talks about carpentry much these days” (”This Is Paradise But Not For Us”) trade literal interpretations in for metaphor and dark humor. 


Highlights on the record include the opener “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” “Bored of The Apocalypse,” and “All Is Holy.” On “Flash Of Lightning In A Clear Blue Sky” synths emerge to turn the tone towards airy and atmospheric (a sense furthered by the lyrics: “I’d like to / surround you / so that you feel / completely held”). And “Winter’s Come” is a beautiful duet that at the end hits epic highs, acting as a nearly penultimate closer before the lovely waltz-like “Since I Fell.” (The actual last track on the record is “Deer Park,” a short instrumental.)



Recorded and mixed by Church and mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri, the production quality is rich and makes sure to keep Church’s distinct voice forward in the mix while not losing the tapestry of everything else going on. For a vocals/guitar based style of music, the beats on this album are truly standout, with varied rhythmic choices interspersed throughout. While there are some live drums on the album, at the release show Church performed with a vintage drum machine rather than a live drummer, and it works surprisingly well.


Strange Strangers is currently out on felte records and available to stream or via Bandcamp. Devon Church will be performing with Pastel Hell and Weird Magazines at Wonderville on May 16th.


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