Being a fan of exotic romance in far-off deserts might be the only driving reason to purchase 100 Lovers.


100 Lovers

DeVotchKa’s fifth studio album takes a drastic departure from being “The Winner” (theme song of “Little Miss Sunshine” and energy commercial score) and causes the band to head toward a less sublimely epic part of its 14-year career.

An internationally diverse quartet born out of Denver, DeVotchKa delivers a sound commonly labeled as “gypsy-punk” or “indie-folk.” Its interest in being hip n’ trendy is proven by the scratchy black-and-white, artificially antiqued cover art of 100 Lovers. A man in a black suit hovers inches above a canyon, while two umbrellas keep him just above the sand of failure. The photograph presumably was taken in the Arizona desert where the band records all of its albums.

“The Alley” and “All the Sand In All the Sea,” the two opening tracks, have a cinematic soundscape of yearning and crescendo. Lead singer Nick Urata’s tenor exaggerates the tracks’ bewitchingly rustic auras. This vivid sound is driven from Urata’s experience in film composition. His work on the recent film “I Love You Phillip Morris,” starring Jim Carrey, has caused Urata’s career to rise rapidly since it was jumpstarted by the Grammy-nominated soundtrack for “Little Miss Sunshine” in 2006.

The pre-released single — a strategically altered version of the album title, “100 Other Lovers” — is clearly the least risky endeavor on the album. The single is DeVotchKa’s attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the mass public while remaining in its desert-romance frame. The song is like meeting someone and only being able to say, “Well, he’s nice” — it’s a wash of colorless chords and monotonic murmurs from Urata.

Bursting with dysfunctional love and syncopated handclaps is “The Common Good.” The track begins with a Spanish bullfighting sound and transfers into luxurious rock interwoven with violin and exotically twisted lyrics like, “Go ahead and chew me up and spit me out.”

100 Lovers throws its listeners two under-60-second interludes that convincingly call to mind an eerie, back-alley setting. The entire middle portion of the album is somewhat of a headache — “The Man From San Sebastian” and “Bad Luck Heels” will make the listener drop his or her capote cape and get out of the desert quick.

“Exhaustible” lifts the album above the canyon dirt, a musical foil to its title. The track is complete with whistles, tambourine, beautifully weighted vocals and a beat that kicks to the core. It depressingly contrasts with “Ruthless” and the only thing keeping “Exhaustible” from drowning in its overemphasized Mariachi and Bolero inspiration is the seasoning of sexy steel drums.

Wondering where the piñata is to lighten the mood, the headache-inducing fiesta continues with the tings and dramatic serenade of “Contrabanda.” Successive to that fiesta, and leaving the final touch on 100 Lovers, is the droning-on “Sunshine” which shines less than DeVotchKa must have hoped for.

Not enough to sweep the masses into your desert this time, DeVotchKa. Not without ibuprofen.

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