This Night Falls Forever

On a transcontinental flight away back in 2006, my now-wife watched a movie called Little Miss Sunshine whilst I read something or other.  Watching the film, which she loved, she discovered this new band, Devotchka.  I was intrigued, if only due to the band’s name; A Clockwork Orange being one of my favourite movies (yes, I know it was a book originally, but I prefer the film, it’s not often I say that).  The band, though, say that’s not from whence their name comes, as ‘devotchka’ is Russian for girl.  Whatever.

We got back to Montréal and got Devotckha’s 2006 ep, Curse Your Little Heart.  We were hooked.  We soon filled up the back catalogue, and then bought every album they put out.  At some point around 2009 or 2010, Devotchka came to Montréal and played Club Soda.  It was a sit-down event, with tables on the floor, to make it like some kind of dinner and show.  So we sat with a few other couples.  But the music!  We got up and danced, together, waltzing and samba-ing around the tables.  We were the only people to do so.  Around 2,000 people in the club, and my wife and I were the only ones to dance.  And people say Montréal is a party town!

Devotchka originally got lumped in with the gypsy punk movement with the likes of Gogol Bordello, they’ve never been a punk band.  And they’re both more lyrically and musically accomplished than those bands.  Devotchka got their start as the backing band for burlesque shows.  From there, soundtracks, Bonnaroo, and all of the sudden, Devotckha were a thing.  Hell, the Boston Phoenix even called them the ‘best new band from Colorado’ in 2009.  Um, what?

So they were on the up and up, culminating in 2011’s 100 Lovers.  And then came the dreaded album with the symphony orchestra.  Me, I usually decide I’m done with a band at this point.  Nothing spells bloated rock star quite like performing with a symphony orchestra.  But, if ever there was a band that could pull this off, it was them.  And then, after the album with the Denver Symphony Orchestra in 2012, we got radio silence. After releasing nine albums, ep’s and a soundrack in eleven years between 2000 and 2011, it appeared that maybe they were done.

And finally, seven long years later, This Night Falls Forever.  Rather than gypsy punk, Devotckha have existed on the same continuum of bands like the Arcade Fire and Beirut, falling somewhere in between.  I had deep fears that the long break between albums wouldn’t bode well for this one.

I could not have been more wrong.  This Night Falls Forever falls into the same sound.  Nick Urata’s warm, soothing voice travels over complex and soaring instrumentals.  Opening track, ‘Straight Shot,’ is a nostalgic look at a quirky small town, where Urata’s character sings ‘Where my true love still resides/and my dreams go to die.’  Bass waltzes are a mainstay of Devotchka and here is no exception.  ‘My Little Despot’ is darker lyrically, over a stuttering drum line and cinematic orchestras, Urata sings about the dangers of a deep love and infatuation with his little despot, who holds him in the palm of her hand.

I’ve always thought they were what Tom Waits was doing in the late 80s, his cabaret days.  The difference is Urata’s voice is, ahem, clear and warm, as opposed to Waits’ growl.  In Devotckha’s music, the bass waltzes, the strings shiver, and cinematic orchestration swells and whimpers, whilst more traditional instruments such as the electric guitar make well-timed and brilliant cameos.

It’s no wonder Little Miss Sunshine was our introduction to Devotchka, they make music for films.  Their music is the soundtrack to a quirky, indie film set in dark alleys, dark rooms, brilliant Prairie highways, and campfires.  Their music just makes me happy to be alive.