100 Lovers (Anti-)
True of dogs, babies, rock bands, artists, beer, and oneself: It’s a drag to see them get old but often a pleasure to witness their maturing. Fullness over time for others only rarely and coincidentally means more of what we love about them, or decide that we need from them. 100 Lovers, DeVotchKa’s newest, suggests that this quartet has been listening to their own earlier records. And like anyone else, they have counted the ornaments and affectations without which they would be easier to listen to often. DeVotchKa owns the American rock mazurka in the 21st century. The band’s excellent turns on the soundtracks of Everything Is Illuminated and Little Miss Sunshine played like hipster-hobo-Eastern Europe in a spray can. And the accordion and brass polka tropes that make that music distinctive shift from asset to liability with overuse.
Vocalist and composer Nick Urata is at his most relaxed here, singing lyrics that impact through mood, poetry, and allusion instead of punky shouting and the evocation of Ellis Island. Violinist Tom Hagerman and numerous guests work toward a sound that’s more romantic Russian chamber ensemble and less parade. The combination is timeless and charming, with a subdued ethnicity that is more mysterious and more musically useful. You may not recognize DeVotchKa the first time you encounter 100 Lovers. But you will probably be more inclined to pursue a second encounter than if they had clung to their clever status quo.