Devotchka, the soundtrack of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’

Formed in the late 90s, the group Devotchka (they added a ta the word russian devochka, What does it mean girl) remains united and enjoys a small but loyal fan base, which greatly enjoys the strange and fascinating mix of sounds that emanates from this band originally from Denver, Colorado, and which is, in fact, the vehicle of their singer, leader, main songwriter and multi-instrumentalist nick urata (guitar, piano, trumpet and bouzouki), although its other three components are also reluctant to be limited to a single instrument: tom hagermann plays the piano, accordion and violin; jeanie schroeder, the bass, the flute and the sax; Y Shaun King is in charge of drums, percussion and trumpet. Devotchka is not a rock band, nor a folk group, nor an alt-country gang, although it brings together elements of all three types of music. Mr. Urata has an innate tendency towards melodrama –sometimes sincere, sometimes ironic- and he likes to broaden his musical palette with extra-American rhythms, as evidenced by his fondness for Mexican sounds or Balkan downloads à la Goran Bregovic. Impossible to describe and incapable of achieving massive success, Devotchka has specialized in tremendously sentimental mixed-race music that manages to reach your soul, both in the fast-paced songs and in the Spanish guitar-based ballads. Their peculiar proposal has led them to record albums when they can, not when they want (the last one, This night falls forever, dates from 2018). I discovered them in 2011 thanks to the album 100 lovers, that, following my habit when I like something, I spent weeks listening obsessively (later, as I usually do, with the previous albums, throwing myself three or four months in which every day something by Devotchka fell on my stereo: the pop mix, rockfolk, country, rancheras and Balkan sounds seemed as novel as they were stimulating to me, and I have never understood why a group that moves in a similar line, Calexico, fares better than them, but that every day is more tired and repetitive after having dispatched, years ago, a couple of memorable LPs).

Most people (among the few who noticed them) discovered Devotchka on the film’s soundtrack. little miss sunshine (2006), in which several of his songs were included along with the soundtrack of Mychael Danna. The thing was an advance compared to their beginnings, when they played on the variety circuit and became the backing band for Dita Von Teese, star of neo burlesque who, God save her sight!, was the girlfriend for a few years of the moron of marilyn mansona Alice Cooper second division (when Mr. Cooper was already third regional). That the group has not dissolved after a twenty-year career in fits and starts is the closest thing to a miracle that some of us are very grateful for, but the popular fervor is not something that Mr. Urata has managed to attract with his peculiar songs. Perhaps Devotchka arrived too late, at a time when rock and its constant evolution had ceased to have the importance that it once enjoyed. Nick Urata is, in this sense, an old-fashioned creator, one of those who start from previous ideas and unexpected additions to create a truly original proposal, an option that today does not guarantee in the least the applause of the majority, which she’s too busy listening to hip hop or reggaeton. What in the 80s could have been a proposal that might have attracted attention (I don’t know what would have been cockney rebelto give a revealing example), is, already late in the 21st century, a rarity for four cats who still believe in the constant evolution of music that made us happy as a teenager and youth.

Devotchka is a mental state in which you want to spend long periods of time (at least, for a few). It is also Mr. Urata’s vehicle until he gets tired of selling few records or having to record them from grapes to pears. I have the impression that the man can end up bordering on indigence – as happened to the leader of clem snidethe great Eef Barzelay– Well, after listening to his new album, I always wonder if it will be the last, since I don’t know if it pays to compose for four eccentrics spread between Europe and the USA. I am of the opinion that someone who has managed to create new music based on mixing his own roots and those of others should enjoy better commercial luck than Mr. Urata and his band, but that is the world in general and that of pop in particular. And his proposal, really, is not for everyone either, as I have deduced from my few attempts at musical proselytism with friends who have made a face not understanding what he had given me when I forced them to listen to some Devotchka songs. I do not intend to insist. I keep the group to myself and entertain the (long) wait between albums by going to Amazon to see if there are any new records. I’ve already been waiting for four years, but hope is the last thing you lose, isn’t it?

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Devotchka, the soundtrack of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’