Have a Little DeVotchKa
DeVotchKa might not ring a bell outside of those people obsessed with “A Clockwork Orange” or music from the “Little Miss Sunshine” soundtrack, but this band has been riding more momentum than you know. A handful of solid releases and an irresistibly optimistic feel about the band is probably what sold them to the guys looking to score “Little Miss Sunshine” and has given the band quite a cult following. However, the band hasn’t released an LP since 2004’s “How It Ends,” leaving its fans yearning for its unique brand of music for quite some time. With 2008’s “A Mad and Faithful Telling” finally arriving, the group has finally earned themselves some spotlight to showcase its talents to a wider audience.
The record doesn’t disappoint from the very beginning. “Basso Profundo” is laced with ska chords and a carefree swagger that is pushed along by the bits of English and Spanish lead vocalist Nick Urata has sewn together. “Along the Way” quickly shows the opposite side of the spectrum with the band, giving a soothing love song strung along by signature DeVotchKa strings.
The next song, “The Clockwise Witness,” captures the group at its finest. Part of DeVotchKa’s allure is its amazing pop sensibility with its wide array of instruments, which is especially fresh to music fans lacking that diversity here in the States. On this track, the song quickly builds up from a windup chimebox to broad violins, with Urata capturing every sense of urgency. The song culminates with more exuberant strings that can’t help but make you smile.
Some of the earlier strut is rekindled with “Head Honcho,” which plays as if you’re watching the lust of your life walk toward you in slow motion from across the room. “Comrade Z” gives you a glimpse of the sparse gypsy punk scene, where guitars are exchanged for accordions but the up-tempo style is maintained. Songs feel like a nonstop chase with bursts of life coming in the forms of the varied instruments.
Urata settles down with “Transliterator” before it is molded into one of DeVotchKa’s more straightforward rock choruses. Urata exclaims, “Beautifully mutilated / Insanely antiquated / I will admit I almost always underestimate it.”
A beating drum brings “Blessing In Disguise,” with those familiar full violins accompanying them. Urata’s voice trembles as he describes the painful separation in the song while moving along at a waltzing pace. While this song comes with an inevitable but difficult acceptance, “Undone” is littered with uneasy dissatisfaction. Urata howls the title of the song throughout, demonstrating his powerful delivery as one of music’s most underrated vocalists.
“Strizzalo” is characterized by more trademark instrumental DeVotchKa, almost as if to ease the blow from “Undone.” There’s a feeling of c’est la vie throughout the song, a lighthearted accordion soon sends you into a dizzying trance that makes you forget what it was you were thinking about in the first place. “New World” closes out the album, starting off with a free flowing guitar and soon being encircled with strings.
“Sweeping” is a word that comes to mind when thinking of DeVotchKa. While listening to the record you are swept off your feet and taken to its world. It simply grabs your attention with its amazing versatility. There aren’t enough bands making music like this these days, taking its array of influences and melding it into such an accessible record. With the assistance of other media darlings like Beirut, DeVotchKa’s blend of worldly music will be opening ears at increasing numbers, and the mainstream media will have to take notice. With bands like these starting to get their dues, maybe there is a radio cure.