Review: Kevin Atwater’s ‘Downers Grove’

Jackson Trotman, Staff

Kevin Atwater, a relatively small artist, released his newest EP, Downers Grove, last week. Atwater makes music that I would describe as indie, but his secret is in his lyricism. He writes about his experiences being gay in the Midwest and everything that comes with it.  

Downers Grove has six tracks on it. “star tripping” is his most popular song and it is, again, the star of this EP. This track is centered around the guitar and the drums, along with Atwater’s singing. The song has a very strong sense of structure, and Atwater changes the lyrics in the repeated chorus. Again, this is where Atwater’s lyrics stand out. One of the lyrical moments that stand out from this song specifically is the line, “I’m falling for a boy who thinks that falling’s a sin.” The music and lyrics come together to paint a very detailed picture of Atwater’s experience. I would give this song a 10/10, as it’s catchy and the lyrics make me bawl. 

“jacob killed a cat” is Atwater’s musings about toxic masculinity throughout his childhood. His lyrics mention being scared to cry with other people. “God, I would cry with him now” really highlights the tone of the song. He is reflecting, looking back on his mistakes and experiences with toxic masculinity. Atwater also highlights his friend’s father blocking him after he hugs his friend goodbye. The fright induced by masculine culture and gay fright, in general, causes Atwater a lot of pain, and he expresses that beautifully through his lyricism. Musically, the production of this song is pretty barebones, leaving a lot of emphasis on Atwater’s vocals. I think this is a good decision, as this song doesn’t need a whole lot more than that to overcomplicate it.  

“christopher street” is about Atwater’s experience with a breakup, from my interpretation. He relates his feelings of being strongly in love after attending a protest on the titular Christopher Street with another man. “If you kiss me now, you can kill me later” shows how deeply Atwater was attached to this man, to the point of self-harm. Musically, this song is consistent with the rest of the EP. It is very guitar-heavy and highlights Atwater’s vocals. However, the ending of this song widens up and adds more instrumentation and a more ambient feeling, leading into the bridge and outro. I will give this song an 8/10, as the lyrics are great but don’t match up with the level of sincerity and emotional weight of some of the other songs on the album.  

“KEEP IT COOL!” is about Atwater’s feelings of being less skillful at sex than his partner. He uses some of his best lyricism in this song. He also talks about how he feels used, and that it wasn’t as special to his partner as it was to him. Those feelings come out very well in this piece with great musical production on the side. This song has a great forward drive, and it is so incredibly catchy despite the depressing lyricism.  

Overall, I would rate this album a 9/10. It is very cohesive and has some of the strongest lyricism I have ever heard in modern music. However, the biggest weak point would be some of the songs have the same style of instrumentation. It is very cohesive as a result but tends to feel monotonous when listening straight down the album. Atwater does a lot with this instrumentation, but it also feels very safe. This album is a very strong 9, and I think it deserves more attention and respect. To anyone who likes sad music and lyrics, put this on your next Spotify session!