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Oh, Devotchka, Where Have I Been All Your Life?

January 10, 2010

Let’s get this out of the way first, Devotchka—just in the last few days, I’ve discovered that your last album, 2008’s A Mad and Faithful Telling, is an exceptional, wonderful album. It’s a heady mixture of elegance, soul, musicianship, songcraft, and, dare I say, fun.

Which inevitably leads me to the question—where the hell have I been?

Sure, Devotchka, I’ve known of you for a few years. I’ve seen various writers lump you in with Calexico as a high-quality “desert rock” band that crosses cultural boundaries effortlessly and effectively. I’ve heard that you mix some Eastern European flavors into your musical stew. And I also knew that you did the score of Little Miss Sunshine, a movie I like but have only seen once, even though I’ve had about 947 chances to see it on the USA Network alone since it left the theaters.

So I knew about you, Devotchka, but I’d never actually paid attention to your music. Where have I been all your life?

Ah, no matter, I’m here with you now, and you are quickly becoming a delightful friend. Your cover of Siouxsie & the Banshees’ “The Last Beat of My Heart” is what first caught my attention a few days ago. It’s all swooning romanticism—perfect for a square like me who loves the intensity of much 80s post-punk and goth but sometimes tires of the “tears-streaking-through-black-eyeliner” aesthetic and somewhat mechanical sound of Siouxsie and her morose cohorts. Your version is just lovely, and it’s surrounded by five other really great covers on 2006’s Curse Your Little Heart EP. Very nice indeed, thanks.

And then there’s A Mad and Faithful Telling, parts of which strike a chord in me that I can hardly begin to locate. Though the musical antecedents differ substantially, there’s something about this record that satisfies me in the same way that Cousteau’s first two records have always done. I think the common thread could be called the “modern crooner” factor. You are not afraid to write a straightforward, unabashed song about love and longing and then belt it out and play the hell out of it. And, like Cousteau, you’ve got the pipes and the chops to pull it off. God bless you for that. I miss Cousteau like hell (though I did just find out that the singer Liam McKahey put out an album last year), but you’re doing quite nicely right now.

Devotchka, my new friends, you should know that I’ll be getting your older albums Una Volta and How It Ends very soon.  To quote a movie that some of your music could probably soundtrack quite well, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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