Review Summary: Suffering only slightly from any kind of slump, Push the Heart is an enjoyable, if somewhat forgettable, journey into some straight-up indie-pop.
First impressions are everything. Devics' 2001 album My Beautiful Sinking Ship
had such a huge emotional impact on me that I immediately scrambled for their other albums. It's not exactly a move I regret, but I only wish Devics could have replicated the success of that album with 2006's Push the Heart
. Even more disappointing is that the first impression for anyone who decides to get this first (and there are a lot, this is the group's most popular album to date) is the utterly boring “Lie to Me”. Of course, Devics, being of immense talent and potential, pick it up from there, but one listening might just get the urge to switch to My Beautiful Sinking Ship
If there's one thing that's worth applause here, it's that Devics switch it up: this is no My Beautiful Sinking Ship, Part 2
. Devics sound more like a full band here than anywhere else, and have gradually veered in the direction of more traditional indie-pop. “Just One Breath” illustrates this perfectly, trading in the typical piano for a guitar melody that could be out of a song by Stars, or even Belle and Sebastian. “Song for a Sleeping Girl,” starring Dustin O'Halloran's deeply comforting voice, also serves up some unexpected mid-tempo guitar and percussion indicative of a more mainstream sound. Despite the charms of songs like these, Push the Heart
is best when Devics cleverly insert small but significant innovations into their dreamy anthems: standout “A Secret Message to You” uses a clicking typewriter as its backing rhythm, while vocalist Sara Lov spins a wistful tale of a message meant to be with a lover. It's not exactly a reinvention for Devics, but it shows that, when they do what they do best, they can be immensely enjoyable.
Great songs delivered in classic Devics style are abundant elsewhere: starting with the airy “Distant Radio,” Devics hit a surprising streak of standouts. The aforementioned “Just One Breath” could be heard anywhere, from mainstream pop-rock radio to the soundtrack of a local Starbucks, and not without good reason either. “Moments” is a taste of My Beautiful Sinking Ship
-era Devics; the song's dreamy piano and contemplative lyrics are heavily reminiscent of that album. And, possibly the album's strongest track, “If We Cannot See” is a beautiful and only slightly over-the-top duet with Lov and O'Halloran, both voices complementing and augmenting the other. These songs alone make the album worth getting, with or without comparisons to their earlier albums.
Occasionally, Devics do slip up: as with aforementioned opener “Lie to Me,” “Salty Seas” is an aimlessly pretty guitar-and-piano ballad, only hovering rather than taking off. The same problem plagues both “City Lights” and “Come Up”. The songs are both pleasant to listen to, but Devics sound almost bored on both of them, and they only remind you of the heights they could really be reaching.
At 10 songs, the album is a little short on material, but there's a great amount of wealth here. Boring ballads or not, Devics are unquestionably one of the most promising indie-pop bands out there, and, as seen both here and on My Beautiful Sinking Ship
, they are capable of doing some truly great things. Whether it be the ethereal guitar strums of “Distant Radio” or the subtly jazzy café pop of “Moments,” there's a lot of proof here that Devics haven't been plagued by the same slump that many artists who are short on creativity suffer from. Push the Heart
is a very enjoyable album that stands on its own, even if it's never as constantly inspiring or effortlessly dramatic as My Beautiful Sinking Ship