Wednesday, April 30th, 2008
Blessing In Disguise
Photo via Gary Isaacs
I have mixed feelings about soundtracks. More specifically, about the phenomenon when a perfectly good and respectable band is taken from their organic, upward trajectory on which they were fueled by simply making good records, and launched into a whole new orbit thanks to having a song featured in some film at the cost of being henceforth known as “the band with that song from that movie”.
Okay, in the case of Denver’s DeVotchKa that’s not wholly the case – they didn’t just have a song in the indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine, they scored the film. And while I wouldn’t have thought that their fusion of Gypsy, mariachi and western stylings would have been the most obvious musical accompaniment for a film about a dysfunctional family taking a road trip to a children’s beauty pageant, they definitely gave it a distinctive flavour. So when the film became a breakout hit and Oscar nominee, DeVotchKa’s profile was increased accordingly.
At the time this all started to go down, they were two years removed from their excellent How It Ends and just releasing their Curse Your Little Heart covers EP, so it’s difficult to say how far along they were in writing their next record or what sort of effect that the Sunshine success (and pressure) had on their creative process but after carefully considering A Mad And Faithful Telling, the answer is evidently “not much at all”.
Mind you, it’s probably impossible for DeVotchKa to sound like anything but DeVotchKa. Not without ditching the sousaphone, accordion, horns and strings, pouring copious amounts of red wine down the drain and flattening Nick Urata’s pompadour (the source of his powers). And really, why would you want to? Like its predecessor, Telling is a drunk, dizzying and romantic romp through the music of the world without ever sounding like world music. It’s a touch less grandiose in scope, less over the top but what it loses in spectacle it gains in focus and songwriting. Where Ends was all about the cinematic sweep from start to finish, the compositions that make up Telling are better able to stand on their own. Episodic, rather than epic.
It’s a record that’s strong enough that I’d like to think that, had Little Miss Sunshine not happened, would still have managed to find the audience it deserves but that probably presumes a little too much justice in the world. So, instead, I will accept that people will come to DeVotchKa thinking that they’re “the band with that song from that movie” but am confident they’ll walk away thinking of them as, “the band that just made me fall in love and broke my heart in the span of three minutes”.
DeVotchKa has just kicked off their North American tour which, sadly, bypasses Toronto this go-around. But they’ve got some local flavour with them in the form of opener Basia Bulat and with an appearance set for August 3 in Montreal at the Osheaga festival, I can only hope a local date is in the offing for around then.
And it’s fitting that I mentioned DeVotchKa, justice and festivals in the preceding couple paragraphs because DeVotchKa have just been announced as headliners of the Monolith Festival, taking place September 13 and 14 at Red Rocks in Denver, alongside Justice. DeVotchKa will close the Saturday, Justice the Sunday, and they’ll be joined by acts such as TV On The Radio, Neko Case, Band Of Horses, Vampire Weekend and scads of others across five stages in a ridiculously beautiful setting. And the reason I’m singling out this festival announcement amongst the dozens of others littering my RSS reader is that Monolith helped sponsor this year’s Hot Freaks party at SxSW and in return, we helped out with their lineup, offering suggestions, critiques and the occasional “ZOMG THEY’RE THE BEST BAND EVER”. I think it all turned out alright.
Super-exciting news – not only will there be a new Radio Dept release this Summer in the form of the Freddie & The Trojan Horse EP, set for released on June 4, but Pitchfork already has the title track from the single available to download and swoon over. While I was initially disappointed in Pet Grief, I’ve since grown to appreciate its glacial beauty. That said, this new song has some more of the kick that made Lesser Matters such a joy. The full-length is due in September. I am stoked.
The Jealous Girlfriends’ new self-titled record is currently streaming at Spinner. Catch them June 3 at the El Mocambo. And the “Class of 2007” feature in The L Magazine wherein I first discovered the band has been followed up with “The Class of 2008”, their picks for the NYC bands set to break out this year.
The New York Post talks to Feist and Pitchfork has the video from her appearance and performance the other night on The Colbert Report. Feist plays the Sony Centre on May 13 and the Air Canada Centre on November 3.
Speaking of labels, Drowned In Sound reports that the Beggars Group has gotten a little more compacted, with the Beggars Banquet and Too Pure imprints being rolled into the 4AD which makes labelmates of the likes of The National, The Mountain Goats and Stereolab, who will release their new album Chemical Chords on August 19 (bearing the 4AD logo). Pitchfork talked to Tim Gane about the new record and there’s already a preview MP3 available to download.
Video: The Long Blondes – “Guilt”
This past weekend I caught one of my most-looked forward to movies of the year this weekend in Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay – and it was as smart, dumb, crude, outrageous and offensive as I could have hoped. And it featured a song by another artist appearing at the Monolith Festival – Mickey Avalon – that I was obsessed with for, well, about the duration that it was playing in the film. And yeah, it gets less funny with each listen but that first time? Whoo.