DeVotchKa’s A Mad and Faithful Telling comes from an alternate reality, a sultry, rainy cityscape in which the speakeasy era never died, the electric guitar has never usurped frantic string and brass arrangements, and the lounge singer rules the night.
Telling gently sways back and forth between lively ballads that would have inspired peasant revolts a century ago and low-key serenades that would bring the survivors luck in amore, all interlaced with the quartet’s dozen or so instruments and singer Nick Urata’s neo-Romani warble.
After touring with Dita Von Teese and crafting the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, mainstream success for DeVotchKa seems both inevitable and improbable. Telling isn’t exactly radio-friendly—at least, not by the last seven decades’ standards. Tracks like the serf’s lament “Undone” and the atmospheric “Transliterator” come close, but even these are tailored for listeners who want what Telling evokes.
But that’s part of DeVotchKa’s style and Telling’s charm. One of its greatest strengths is its novelty; the chance to listen to something that takes you somewhere else is a welcome one.