» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
A Mad and Faithful Telling

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

April 23, 2008
If there is a singular band out there that embodies a textbook definition of "ahead of the gypsy curve," let it be known that DeVotchKa is that band. From before Zach Condon of Beirut was old enough to drive, this foursome of classically trained musicians have been incorporating the gypsy sound - and life for that matter - into an increasingly respectable run of self-released records. Sure, we now have gypsy punks Gogol Bordello, and even bellwethers Arcade Fire cop a Balkan jingle now and then to grease their mariachi horns, but where were you when Neutral Milk Hotel was carrying the torch for madcap marching bands across the land?

I had the privilege of witnessing DeVotchKa's live energy several years ago, and let me confirm it's as manic and contagious as one would expect from a stage cluttered with a sousaphone, accordion, piano, violin, bouzouki, upright bass, percussion, horns, and a theremin. Such diverse instruments only work if they're played by a woman who was in a Civil War recreationist band, a drummer who was raised by Lithuanian polka musicians, and a trained academic who ditched the Ivy to play for the people. Ergo, this eclectic orkestar is led by the incomparable Nick Urata, the grandchild of an arranged marriage between a Sicilian and, you guessed it, a Gypsy.

Their pedigree would suggest that DeVotchKa should be recording for Putumayo and not Anti-, and their newest release, A Mad and Faithful Telling, may indeed have you running for the bulls. Yet here is the catch-22 with this groupo: for all their world music (gasp) inclinations, anyone who has seen Little Miss Sunshine - for which DeVotchKa penned the Oscar-nominated score - knows that Mr. Urata can write strangely moving pop gems. Forget the good, but patent, opening track "Basso Profundo," my money is on the following "Along the Way." As good as today's crop of Welt-Musiker might be, no one even comes close to seamlessly blending the diverse phonics of the globe into four minute songs that will melt any indie hipster's heart.

This dichotomy is what makes this fabulously talented foursome either great or frustrating, depending upon one's expectations. Each of DeVotchKa's albums are divided into songs that play the world theme straight-up, and ones that are a far richer mixture. In this writer's humble opinion, it's what ultimately sells the records short. If the choice comes down to being obvious or oblique, the band could take a forty-five minute saunter down the road less musically traveled. When they do, I'm hedging that the result will be a masterwork. Until then, releases like A Mad and Faithful Telling will be as engaging as anything that has come before, but will only offer hints at what these colorful characters might do when they finally release the catapult.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro



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