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Devotchka | 100 Lovers

Album review by John Powell

Devotchka  | 100 Lovers

DeVotchka has never conformed to radio-friendly pop-dom, nor have they allowed themselves to become monotonous. Somehow, with 100 Lovers, the foursome continues to re-imagine their circus/mariachi/alt. folk sound, bringing twelve new songs about love, lust, and magic- and all with a timeless shimmer.

Vocalist Nick Urata fills each song densely with lyrics, but he’s now taking more risks with his attitude. On “All the Sand in All the Sea” he sings, “I’m going to count to three/ then you want to leave here with me,” and later, “Here’s the part that always gets me!” In many ways, at least to me, he sounds like a magician looking back at years of potions and tricks, a ringleader- one with powers to manipulate and steal hearts. Each song attempts to digest what “love” means, giving us the album’s title.

On the gorgeous “100 Other Lovers”, which has gypsy flute, rollicking violin, and synth- infused beats, Nick suggest, “Oh, the things I will believe.” But while some musicians may brood over their lovelorn latter days, DeVotchka’s instrumentation and the air with which the vocals fly, makes them almost above their own emotions. There’s a sense of humor to it all.

“I’ve come to see ya,” Nick says to his signorina on “Bad Luck Heels”. “I got all dressed up…I’ve come solo, baby.” Drawing on the mariachi, trumpet and quick-strumming fun DeVotchka has mastered, the song is a key track. “Let the truth be told,” he adds; “the hills have no gold/the land has no heart/the men have no souls.” (Are you beginning to see where I’m getting this timeless magic idea from?)

This album takes a few healthy risks. “Exhaustible” is the most original track. During the intro, Nick whistles, creating a silly melody over tambourine and theremin. “You and I can conquer distance/ space and time and mass resistance,” Nick sings as the violin swirls in. The tone is wry, alive, and interesting because Nick’s vocals have always been muddled and misty, like he’s half drunk. Sometimes that can be saddening, but throughout 100 Lovers, it’s playful.

Like all DeVotchka albums, this one is instantly adorable and catchy. You find yourself bobbing to songs off of it that you haven’t heard in days. It becomes the soundtrack to a thoughtful day. When I first heard Nick, Tom Hagerman, Jeanie Schroder, and Shawn King’s collective persona, DeVotchka, I wished for clearer vocals and more variation in the themes, but once you give in, join their circus, then you’re hooked.

The album closer, “Sunshine”, has slick orchestration, a rock beat, strange, Beck-like guitar play, and is an instrumental. It’s built on the band as a whole, which is what you can appreciate most about DeVotchka: With their powers combined they accomplish what most musicians couldn’t even dream up. And with 100 Lover they do it with pizzazz.


 

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