album reviews

Curse Your Little Heart
Ace Fu Records (2006)
Norfolk & Western
A Gilded Age
Hush Records (2006)

Covers-only albums are almost always disposable, and covers-only EPs are generally even more so. But DeVotchKa's adaptation of songs into its gypsy-folk style is executed so adeptly on the "Curse Your Little Heart" EP that the group's choice to use others' songs merely underscores its instrumental prowess.

The title track -- the lone original -- features a dramatic string section and a driving upright bass melody, while Nick Urata's mopey croon augments the sadness behind "The Last Beat of My Heart" (originally by Siouxsie and the Banshees) with his bandmates' moving instrumentation. But the cover that most jubilantly captures DeVotchKa's spirit is the traditional Mariachi "El Zopilote Mojado," which bursts with energy at the end of the otherwise ballad-driven EP.

Although Norfolk & Western is mostly a vehicle for Adam Selzer, the group has grown to include former Decemberists' drummer Rachel Blumberg. The pairing gives their "A Gilded Age" EP the laid-back feel of a Mojave 3 album, especially because Blumberg channels the airiness of Mojave's Rachel Goswell. She excels both on lead vocals (the charming meanders of "Minor Daughter") and on her gorgeous harmonies, complementing Seltzer particularly well on the Calexico-influenced "Clyde & New Orleans."

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 16 June 2006, Page WE08
.: Items mentioned above on Curse Your Little Heart (DeVotchKa, 2006); A Gilded Age (Norfolk & Western, 2006).