Finer Feelings #3: DeVotchKa – How It Ends (2004)

DeVotchKa have so many influences in their music that it can be quite difficult to pin them down.  No other album of theirs better captures their mix of Balkan/Mariachi/Chamber pop like How It Ends, easily one of this decade’s most staggeringly gorgeous records.  Frontman Nick Urata’s voice is in top form and plays faultlessly well alongside the other three-quarters of the band’s multi-instrumental juggling act.  From simple, lightly-accompanied melodies like “Dearly Departed” and “You Love Me” to the lush and swooning orchestration of the title track, How It Ends plays like one of those global music compilations you’d pick up from the corner café.  What those compilations often lack, though, is the cohesion that DeVotchKa somehow conjure to connect all their worldly ideas.  Tremolo guitars and lonesome whistles drive the spaghetti western-y “The Enemy Guns,” while drummer Shawn King’s trumpet lines on “We’re Leaving” give the song a south-of-the-border flair.  One of DeVotchKa’s most distinctive elements is bassist Jeanie Schroder’s use of the tuba instead of upright bass on several tracks.  “Twenty-Six Temptations” gets an ominous mood from the tuba’s bellow, and it creates a freewheeling, bottle-dancing atmosphere on “Such A Lovely Thing.”  Violinist/accordionist Tom Hagerman’s staccato plucks on the playful “Too Tired” and wheezing squeezebox on “Viens Avec Moi” and “Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny of…)” are also strong cornerstones of the band’s (and album’s) sound.  The album ends with a pair of instrumentals, the dynamic “Lunnaya Pogonka” and a reprise of the string outro from “How It Ends.”  Many records offer deeper gratification upon repeat listens; How It Ends coyly urges you to listen to it over and over, enveloping you in a blissful yet ultimately futile attempt to decode its charms.

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~ by E. on December 2, 2009.

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