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My Beautiful Sinking Ship

The Devics
My Beautiful Sinking Ship
(Bella Union)

A couple months back, I went to see Lift To Experience, and I was stoked. I'd read that The Devics (pronounced "Dee-Vicks") were opening for them, and I'd heard good things about them, but I was mainly looking forward to getting my hair blown back by the wall of sound that is Lift To Experience. Although they were labelmates, it seemed a somewhat unlikely tour pairing, but no matter...

The moment that The Devics took the state and played their first note, I was enthralled, though. They played a sort of drunken-swagger lounge/jazz revival that reminded me of what Portishead might sound like if they ditched the beats and played everything with straight-up instruments. With the woozy guitars and Gershwin-like (whom they actually covered in concert) piano melodies mixing with an upright bass, it provided the nearly perfect instrumentation to back the amazing vocals of vocalist Sara Lov. Best of all, they weren't a group that were afraid to rock out. At moments, they'd coo you with a near lullaby, then they'd rock your socks with some thick guitars.

After hearing that show, I sought out My Beautiful Sinking Ship and found much of what I'd liked so much about them in concert. Although it lacks some of the rich live energy and twang (most of the album is recorded with a regular bass instead of the upright I saw them playing with), it's an excellent document of a group that's obviously getting better all the time (their earlier release If You Forget Me shows signs of things to come). The release opens with the quiet, haunting "Heart And Hands," on which an intertwining piano and music box melody build a spooky backdrop to Lov's breathy vocals. Playing the dynamics I mentioned above, the second, album-titled "My Beautiful Sinking Ship" swaggers like an old sea-shanty song, backed by accordian, piano and bass before riffing out with huge guitars on the chorus.

O'Halloran doesn't just end up on instruments, though, and when he takes over vocal duties on tracks like "Living Behind The Sun" and "Five Seconds To Hold You," his warm baritone creates a nice harmony with the breathy vocals of Lov. The latter track is particularly amazing, drifting along with only a backing of shimmering, subtle guitars, before dropping off to echoed-out percussion during the underwater chorus.

While some of the tracks on the album simply play it straight (the piano/vocal "Why I Chose To Never Grow"), they're still solid enough (without being overwrought) that it doesn't break the continuity of the release. For every couple quieter tracks, though, there's a rollicking number like "You In The Glass" that kicks things back up a notch. With 15 tracks and well over an hour of music, it's an excellent release that has moments of greatness and no real glaring weak spots. Considering the live show that I mentioned above (which was after the release of this album), they've progressed even since then, and I can't wait to see what they do next. For fans of everyone from trip-hop (jeez, does anyone even use that word anymore?) to dark chamber pop/rock, this is definitely a group you'll be hearing more from in the future.

Rating: 7.5