Monday, May 29th, 2006
The Last Beat Of My Heart
One thing you can say about Denver’s DeVotchKa – they sure as hell don’t sound like anyone else. Horns, strings and guitars crash into each other in an otherworldly Gypsy/mariachi/rock and roll film score mashup (Calexico vs Gogol Bordello?) and above it all, Nick Urata’s impassioned, unbelievable croon. Their new record Curse Your Little Heart is something of a stopgap while they work on the follow-up to 2004’s How It Ends, consisting of just one original and five covers from exceedingly disparate sources.
But no matter where they come from, DeVotchKa makes the songs their own with rhythms, instrumentation and delivery that the original writers likely never concieved of. It’s probably telling that two of the strongest songs on the EP are also the unlikeliest ones – Siouxsie & The Banshees’ “The Last Beat Of My Heart” and The Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs”. I won’t go so far as to say that they’re superior for that’ll surely put me on some zealot’s hit list, but by god they stand up on their own.
I will admit freely that this was my first exposure to DeVotchKa and a covers EP probably isn’t the best way to gauge a band, but songs notwithstanding their sound is more than a little exhilerating and based on the How It Ends tracks available on their MySpace, their originals won’t be a let down. The last full-length just went on my shopping list – maybe I’ll get it on June 27 when they play the El Mocambo (tickets $10). Every time I listen to Curse Your Little Heart, I get a little more excited for this show. I suspect it’ll be a scorcher. I Guess I’m Floating also recently wrote up DeVotchKa. Great minds something something.
DeVotchKa’s tourmates on this jaunt are Portland’s Norfolk & Western, who are promoting their new album The Gilded Age. Like their compatriots, they create idiosyncratic folk music that sounds almost completely out of time – they can step from turn-of-the-century banjo plucking to speaker-shredding fuzz guitar in a half beat and make it sound completely natural. The Oregonian profiles Adam Selzer, singer and half of the core duo that drive the band. The other half is one Rachel Blumberg, whom you may (or may not) remember as former drummer for The Decemberists – some thought she was crazy when she quit that band early last year to concentrate on N&W, but after hearing some of what she’s been up to, I don’t really question the move anymore. This stuff is good. Here are a couple of tracks from The Gilded Age and you can hear more at their MySpace.
And it should be noted that she who replaced Rachel Blumberg in the Decemberists for their 2005 touring schedule, Ms Petra Haden, is no longer playing with the band. In a post on the Decemberists message board, Colin Meloy said:
“it’s an amicable thing; we still are friends. For one thing, we initially had asked her to come aboard as a touring musician for just the Picaresque tours. We hadn’t really expected to take her on as a full-time part of the band. There was some talk about that happening, but in the end, after the tours were over and we were back in the comforts of our homes it didn’t necessarily still make sense”.
Anyone who saw the Haden-powered shows (as I did last May) will attest that her pipes and violin were huge additions to the band and her departure is most unfortunate – but it’s obvious that she has her own muse to follow, like the one that compelled her to record completely a capella versions of The Who Sell Out, MJ’s “Thriller” and the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”. Also demonstrating her gift for a cover was her take on Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” which she performed with The Decemberists and is one of my most popular past MP3 of the week requests. So before you ask, here you go. Call these and the DeVotchKa track some cover of the week bonuses.
Paste talks to John Covertino and Joey Burns about Calexico’s first recordings – done on Covertino’s answering machine – and their latest ones, collected as Garden Ruin. They also run off their their top 5 musical thrift store finds.
The Globe & Mail talks about being sexy with Amy Millan, whose Honey From The Tombs is out Tuesday and she plays the Mod Club June 10. I Heart Music has a couple of Stars radio sessions with KEXP up for download.
Chase Sequence has an interview with Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee-O’Malley about the new book and the Scott Pilgrim movie. Attending the release party for Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness (it’s great – get it) was my Saturday night. Partaking in Doors Open was much of the rest of my weekend. Check out the pics at Flickr. Critical Kitten also did Doors Open and has some really nice photos of places I didn’t get into, what with “doors open” not necessarily meaning “jump the queue”.
np – Smoosh / Free To Stay