Under Review: DeVotchKa – 100 Lovers

What’s a band to do seven years after the release of their career-defining opus? Possibilities include: endlessly trying to recapture that album’s magic, abandoning writing new material altogether, or soldiering on into uncharted directions. While it’s true that swooning transcontinental rockers DeVotchKa have struggled to match the majesty of How It Ends, they have nonetheless released perfectly wonderful music ever since. Of course, it’s a tall order for any band to approach the culturally transcendent beauty of How It Ends, let alone the very quartet that crafted it. How It Ends it might not be, but 100 Lovers offers a true bounty that any band would be proud to call their own.

DeVotchKa’s music is driven by both fusion and variety. Churning rhythms evoke a Balkan feel until a bright mariachi trumpet pierces through the mix. From song to song on 100 Lovers, each of DeVotchKa’s distinctive modes is touched upon. Thomas Hagerman’s exquisite violin textures drive the (nearly) title track, “100 Other Lovers,” and drummer Shawn King’s staccato horns on “Contrabanda” intertwine with Hagerman’s wheezing accordion for a sinister south-of-the-border flair. The latter track also prominently features another of the band’s most recognizable traits: Jeanie Schroder’s bellowing tuba. As always, Nick Urata’s voice is treated as yet another exotic instrument. His whistling on the breezy “Exhaustible” and ethereal coos in the jazzy “All The Sand In All The Sea” show off his uncommon vocalizations.

The songs on 100 Lovers each have such strong character that they tend to dominate the spotlight when their turn comes up. Though the keystones of the band’s sound are plentiful, the new songs take a little longer to sink in than ones on previous efforts. It’s clear that DeVotchKa are acutely aware of what aspects of their global influences work best in certain songs. From the fiesta of “Bad Luck Heels” to the military snap of “The Man From San Sebastian,” 100 Lovers is another gem in a line of runner-ups for a band who has to try that much harder than the rest to top themselves.


~ by E. on February 14, 2011.

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