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Devotchka's "100 Lovers" Reviewed

 I don’t like to use the word romanticism, because what does it mean these days? Romantic aesthetics have been so overused and cheapened that we are often far from what they really represent, but it nevertheless runs what I would call a romantic feeling all over Devotchka’s ‘100 Lovers’, thanks to Nick Urata’s soaring operatic vocals, warm choirs, and tons of strings in the urgency of the next built-up. And, I know, these strings will probably remind you Arcade Fire’s ‘The Suburbs’ at times, you will just have to listen to the thumping beginning of ‘Common ground’ or the contained bombastic drama of ‘All the Sand in all the Sea’ for that. But never mind.

The album opens with ‘The Alley’, a relatively dark place, which slowly opens on the grandiose with the vocals escalating over the lush string arrangements, the drums pounding their way to some magical height, ‘Her fingers wrapped around your wrist/From the beast she pulls a lover/From this world you’ll need no other’.

None of this magical feeling is lost in ‘All the Sand in all the Sea’, with this in-alert-single piano note of the beginning and the music building up a tension, blending with ease the melodramatic and the triumphant, a mix that would actually fit to many of the tracks.

As the art cover may suggest it, the album seems to be a constant calling for departure, a longing for going to some faraway hidden place, ‘over seas transmissions/to anyone who will listen’ (‘All the Sand in all the Sea’), ‘You want to be a million miles from this place/You want to get on with my untimely disgrace’ (‘100 Other Lovers’), or even ‘You and I can conquer distance/Space and time and mass resistance/And I really must insist/You come with me my dear/Come with me my dear’ (‘Exhaustible’), … but all these tales of lovers who have traveled miles and miles, with a defiant hope that cannot be broken despite everything, finally burst with mariachi trumpets and a spaghetti western galloping rhythm in ‘Bad Luck Heels’, a throw-everything-for love song, ‘My sweet Signorina/I’ve come to see you/I got all dressed up/Million miles from home/I got nowhere to go’.

The band, based in Colorado, transcend the cultures, and if their moniker means girl in Russian, and their sound was built around Gypsy and Eastern European music, their use of so many other elements (and instruments) of diverse origins – marrying Slavic with Spanish music in ‘Ruthless’, with Mariachi and Latino rhythms in ‘Contrabanda’, or even with tango accordion in ‘The Man from San Sebastian’ – makes it very difficult to sort out the different influences, but why would you? Far from the playful madness of another band carrying the Gypsy heritage like Gogol Bordello, ‘100 Lovers’ has enlarged many other horizons.

Most of the songs want to explode somewhere, although they never completely do, and it would probably be a common ground to say there are some undeniable cinematic qualities to many of them, considering the band’s big breakthrough was the soundtrack of the Oscar winning film ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, but melodies that convey such fervent emotions and passionate characters, symphonic tunes that expand so dramatically, deserve the large screen

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