Gypsy music from Eastern Europe and Mariachi sounds from Mexico may not be the most compatible of musical styles, but they typify the divergent harmony that DeVotchKa achieves in their newest album, 100 Lovers.
“I wanted us to stand out from the average band and I wanted to use exotic instruments,” frontman Nick Urata said in a YouTube interview. Exotic indeed: Their studio sound and live performances include, among more traditional musical staples, accordions and sousaphones to boot.
Drawing from a broad range of aural traditions, DeVotchKa crafts a sound that hovers between heavy and light, bright and dark, depressing and uplifting and transcends everywhere in between. It was this tone that was featured in the bittersweet film Little Miss Sunshine, for which the band scored the original soundtrack.
Released Feb. 28, 100 Lovers is the band’s fifth studio album. Throughout the 12 tracks, DeVotchKa explores an expansive soundscape. The result is an eclectic yet elegant music styling.
“The Common Good,” the album’s fourth track, typifies this musical wavering. Beginning with a sinister tonality you might expect to hear while walking through an outdoor bazaar, the mood shifts into a verse that pits coarse, stratospheric vocals belting plaintive lyrics (“If this is love I’m gonna lose there is no doubt / You’re gonna chew me up and spit me out”) against uplifting, sweeping string crescendos. This juxtaposition is grounded by punchy, syncopated percussion, returning to the initial sinister mood.
“100 Other Lovers,” is equally puzzling. Beginning with rich warm tones of flute and other wind instruments, the humming bass and crisp percussion enter to create a cheerful, playful quality. On top of the instrumentals, distinct, staccato vocals, similar to Modest Mouse, can be heard. The lyrics, however, struggle to carry an equivalently uplifting message: “I will admit I am embarrassed by your grace / And the complete look of boredom upon your face / You want to be a million miles from this place / You want to get on with my untimely disgrace.”
With the title 100 Lovers, it’s not difficult to speculate as to what the message of the album may be.
Another enigmatic tune, “The Man from San Sabastian” begins with a Gypsy-esque accordion and piles on the powerful reverb and staccato riffs characteristic of surf guitar. The vocals are dark and drawn out, reminiscent of Muse. The result is a dark, driving musical exploration.
As a whole, the album oscillates between musically antithetical ends with uplifting melodies that contrasts with a heavy, punchy sound. The album could easily be a soundtrack to a country drive during a sunny summertime day, but would work equally well for a dark, rainy day indoors.
It might not make it to the top of your pregame playlist, but anyone who prides oneself as an audiophile will certainly want to check out DeVotchKa and their charmingly idiosyncratic sound on 100 Lovers.