DeVotchKa seems like a much mellower band than the one that started out playing burlesque shows in the mid-'90s. The Denver quartet's latest, "100 Lovers," shows the clear influence that its film score work ("Little Miss Sunshine") has had on its gypsy-folk sound.
The group's cinematic touch is evident from the opening track. The sweeping strings on "The Alley" give the song a dramatic flair, while Nick Urata's sighing vocals sound more like a reverie than a driving force. Even up-tempo numbers such as "The Man From San Sebastian" never seem to capture the energy that one would expect from a gypsy band, causing the album to fade into the background despite its lush orchestrations.
Still, DeVotchKa does excel at creating this atmosphere, from the trancelike "Ruthless" to the lilting instrumental album-closer "Sunshine." But sometimes a pleasant ambiance isn't enough. Even Urata's plaintive croon on "Bad Luck Heels" sounds more like a backdrop than an attention-grabber, making "100 Lovers" feel a bit complacent.
-- Catherine P. Lewis