It’s difficult to explain DeVotchKa exactly. One minute they’re toying with Eastern European gypsy-like rhythms, then the next, they’re diving straight into Ennio Morricone territory. And that’s before they go off exploring mariachi and other southwestern styles. It’s difficult to exactly label this band, which is incredible.
Colorado has hardly anything better come out of it.
“How it Ends” is already DeVotchKa’s third album and it’s their strongest. The album is a huge kaleidoscope of styles and workings. It’s beautiful, epic, profound, dance-worthy, close-your-eyes-and-go-into-a-secluded-coma educing piece of work. This is what music should be.
The album kicks off with the rather straightforward, “You Love Me”, encompassing a Southwestern feel to it. It’s a happy little love-song and really just a prologue to the rest of the album. “The Enemy Guns” is where it starts, bursting into fruition with a Morricone like guitar riff followed by a driving beat and...whistling! “No One is Watching” follows, which is just a twenty-four second or so work, really filler but still pretty good. It launches itself into “Twenty-Six Temptations”, a creepy, pulsing and tense good time. Bassist Jeanie Schroder puts away her upright double bass for this, choosing instead to pull out a tuba of all things. This is where the album begins to move from the Southwestern feel to a hint of something more Eastern European.
One of the best songs on the record comes next: the title track, “How it Ends”. This is easily, hands down, one of the most beautiful songs written in a long while. A resonating keyboard pumps between two chords while singer Nick Urata sings about holding your grandmother’s bible against your breast. It’s slow, sad; yet...profound would really be the only word to describe it. The bridge filled with two violins slowly making their way up across the scales adds to the beauty here. It’s enough to bring a listener to tears at the right time. This song already is hitting something a bit larger than this band currently is. It was featured in the film “Everything is illuminated” and basically serves as the theme for “Little Miss Sunshine” (a soundtrack the band performed). It strays a bit from the Eastern European style of the previous song, but it could not have come at a better place in the album.
The instrumental “Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny Of...)” comes directly after, delving back to the gypsy styling of earlier. An accordion, performed by Shawn King kicks it off. The album turns back, now experimenting with the often over-looked mariachi scene in rock n’ roll (of course, why should mariachi music be even included with rock n’ roll? So actually it rather helps bring the mariachi scene into rock, much like Calexico) with “We’re Leaving”. It’s probably one of the happiest-sounding leaving songs ever written, but it does make one want to dance.
“Dearly Departed” is another song in the style of the first one. And “Such a Lovely Thing” is an accordion-driven ass kicker. Again, very Romani and very able to make anyone move. “Too Tired” sounds like a child’s song, which is appropriate because the song has a child’s innocence to love all about it. “Viens Avec Moi” brings in some outside musicians for additional instrumentation in this rather creepy song. “This Place is Haunted” isn’t so much a haunting like the previous song that came in before it. It’s a very nostalgic piece, fitting in more with “How it Ends” than any other song on the album. This is the last song with any vocals for the rest of the album.
“Lunnaya Pogonka” welds together the primary influences of the album. The under riding rhythm is distinctly the gypsy influences, while the layers of additional instruments poke with the Morricone finger at the Southwestern roots of the band. It’s all explodes in a glorious climax of notes and rhythms and passions and God knows what else.
“Reprise” closes the album, a fitting and short epilogue to this great piece.
Listening throughout one realizes that this band is really amazing. They’re tight and they know how to play their instruments. And that Nick Urata can sing! It’s a great listen and great to re-listen to over and over. It may have to be ordered, but it’s totally worth it.
RECOMMENDED TRACKS: The Enemy Guns, Twenty-Six Temptations, How it Ends, Such a Lovely Thing, Lunnaya Pogonka