Album review + MP3: DeVotchKa follows its own muse on ’100 Lovers’
Creating a follow-up to the 2008 masterpiece A Mad and Faithful Telling would be a difficult achievement for any artist, but DeVotchKa seamlessly delivers — and with gusto. This quartet’s roots are in a self-made style of multi-instrumental punk, and clearly, as this album demonstrates, they have continued on that path while evolving along the way.
The overall sound of 100 Lovers, as with many albums previous, including their 2006 score to the breakout indie film Little Miss Sunshine, is cinematic, epic, intense, emotive, exciting and soothing — often simultaneously.
On this album in particular, frontman Nick Urata sustains his vocal notes over galloping percussion that moves songs along and strings that often glide, twirl, engage and disappear before you realize just what happened. Whether on fast or slow tempos, his disciplined singing style shines through.
100 Lovers was produced with Craig Schumacher at Wavelab in Tucson, Ariz. Schumacher is best known as longtime producer for Neko Case and Calexico, among others, and his skills behind the board show well throughout this record, as on the many fine records he’s worked on previously. Ever heard Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone or Fox Confessor Brings the Flood? With the arrangements and clever production decisions on 100 Lovers, as with many great producers, one could easily make an argument that he plays the role of fifth member to the band.
The single “100 Other Lovers” is about as close to a pop song as DeVotchka gets, and the melody and subject matter offer a slight nod to the Police’s “King of Pain.” Even with all the hooks the song is never predictable — strings, reversed flute, percussion and Urata’s voice and delivery shift to drive the song as it unfolds. As the title suggests, his love interest may have 100 other lovers, but the singer chooses to shake it off by declaring, “I guess it’s just as easy if you lie to me.”
The accordion and electric guitar heavy sound of “The Man From San Sebastian” stands out as a clamorous, classy, Klezmer track. The song gracefully slides into a ghostly, ethereal guitar/theremin solo, and then jumps back into form.
Mariachi horns and accordion set up the merengue song “Contrabanda,” lifting the album with Latin spice and pizzazz. But the album’s recurring thread occurs in songs like “All The Sand In All The Sea,” “The Common Good,” “Bad Luck Heals” and “Ruthless,” all of which exude emotion like, well, like opera. An amazing, beautiful south of the border/Eastern European opera.
DeVotchKa’s 100 Lovers overall demonstrates an inimitable group at the top of its game, and like many bands I love, DeVotchKa plays by its own rules. It’s unfortunate that groups like this are too often thrown into genre boxes based on their instrumentation. If voice and instruments are colors on a pallet, the vocals, guitars, keyboard, accordion, strings, horns, bass and percussion really color the heart and soul of the album. And those dimensions, as a whole, are so richly developed.
DeVotchKa – “100 Other Lovers”