Album Reviews

DeVotchKa – 100 Lovers

on March 14, 2011, 8:00am
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For all intents and purposes, this album should be a sleeper. DeVotchKa has seen moderate success, headlining club tours for the past five years after the successes of their two previous albums, A Mad And Faithful Telling and How It Ends. This success was only amplified by the inclusion of their big hit “How It Ends” in the trailers for the indie film Everything Is Illuminated and the hit video game Gears of War 2. To top it all off, they were chosen to do the majority of the soundtrack for 2006 Sundance big-winner Little Miss Sunshine.

They’d done what they’d set out to do: get their unique brand of gypsy folk/baroque pop out to the masses. In every way, their music reached the right ears, and it seemed as though they’d climaxed. It would have been a great way to finish off the upward swing of a pretty successful career. But DeVotchKa had other plans.

Following a headlining tour that ended in late 2009, the band took some time off at the end of that year and the beginning of the next to record what would ultimately become 100 Lovers. Filled to the brim with a more subdued, tranquil version of their music, DeVotchKa grab your attention with mighty force at the beginning of this record and don’t let go until all 12 tracks have had their turn to shine.

Beginning with a track far more ethereal than most DeVotchKa fans will be used to, “The Alley” begins with a minute of music that seems more fit for an Explosions In The Sky background. That is, until Nick Urata’s distinct vocals enter and combine the two worlds of post-rock and indie-folk. As he croons, “Who among you can resist, her fingers wrapped around your wrist?”, it’s impossible not to have your attention completely undivided in his direction.

It’s at about the three minute mark that you realize DeVotchKa not only doesn’t have plans to slow things down, but they very well may have broken free of their previous niche and found even greener pastures.

The next track, “All The Sands In All The Seas”, reminds its listeners of the impeccable musicianship maintained by all four members of DeVotchKa, and as Urata reaches to grab the high notes of the chorus, once again our attention is stolen. It makes itself very manifest that this is going to be a theme for the album as it begins to unfold. Quasi-titular track “100 Other Lovers” hits with an irresistible three scale combo: an extremely catchy chorus “I guess it’s just as easy if you lie to me” vs. a driving flute melody vs. yet another post-rock bass riff.

The music is second to none on this album, truly, and is only made more potent with wildly imaginative lyricism. Nearly every song on this album is a love song (not surprising as we look at the title, but also as we look at DeVotchKa’s wealthy back-catalogue), but not in the traditional sense. First, rarely are they about success within love. It’s far more bleak, focusing on the downsides to love. The throws of wildly passionate love and how it can destroy a person or a relationship, the sheer torture that is unrequited love, changing affections, etc.

Second, in very Dean Martin fashion, Urata fills his lungs with passion as he belts out note after note of lover’s scorn. In a genre that is meant to sound like another legitimate world genre, it is hard for a band to sound completely believable. They can sound authentic, sure, but to sound completely believable is noteworthy. Urata sings with such might that it is hard to doubt him or the music behind him for one second.

Urata is obviously the highlight of this album and this act, but it isn’t without the expertness with which his fellows play their several instruments that this band achieves success in being believable. “The Man From San Sebastian” is the largest proof of this statement, showing off that gypsy-punk side they’ve come to be known for, almost overshadowing the vocals. It is by and large the hardest song on the album, and becomes an outright jam as the song begins to unfold. Next in line is the album closer “Sunshine”, which is an utterly gripping instrumental driven by powerful violin and percussion that closes the album in a wonderfully triumphant way.

And as it all comes to an end, the listener is left to sit and wonder how much longer they can keep doing this. If they didn’t fall this time, might they be able to steel themselves for another success years from now? Will they maintain their status within the music community? After hearing this album, the answer to these questions is most certainly yes. Upon the heels of what seemed like their pinnacle, they released what is, without a doubt, their most cohesive album to date.

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