CD Review: Devics Shine With Sad Songs on ...Push the Heart...
Melancholic Orchestrations and Haunting Harmonies Fill Up Band...s Latest Release
By Sarah Dupuis
“Push the Heart”
Filter U.S., 2006
Airy, gentle, and calculated, L.A. pop band Devics’ new release, “Push the Heart,” is as tiered, decorated, and clean as a white wedding cake. Fronted by the glistening vocals of Sara Lov and supplemented by multi-instrumentalist Dustin O’Halloran, the duo delivers a woebegone collection of tunes that are less than lyrically profound, but musically heartbreaking with every note.
Lov, the lyrical and vocal half of Devics, has a warm tone; the chilling harmonies present throughout the record give “Push the Heart” an unsettling sound reminiscent of Belgian group Melon Galia. Lov’s voice is never forced, and as pure as a pitch-perfect wind instrument. Her gentle intonation is complemented well by O’Halloran’s musical arrangements, which center around layered piano and guitar melodies, but also feature mellotron, moog, glockenspiel, synthesizer, Marxophone, and accordion, to name a few. This is the kind of disc that needs several listens in order to catch all the subtle entrances and exits orchestrated by O’Halloran. Although each note is expertly fitted to the surrounding music, the various musical phrases placed throughout the record are anything but repetitious, and seem to appear spontaneously.
The album opens with the melancholy and slow-paced “Lie to Me,” an eery tune that starts with the slow strumming of guitars, a piano part that seems to trickle as the notes descend, and the gorgeous purity of Lov’s voice. “Let me believe in something,” pleads Lov towards the end of the track, and instantly the listener wants to believe right along with her. The next track, “Secret Message To You,” tells the romantic story of a small wooden boat constructed out of wood, glue, magazine paper and an eraser. Lov’s desperation is obvious throughout the CD, although not always articulated clearly — “I’m not saying this is good or bad; I’m not saying that I want to go,” she sings on “Salty Seas,” a song which sounds vaguely like an older Cat Power tune. The pace, if not the mood, picks up after “Song for a Sleeping Girl,” with vocals fronted by the unimpressive but effective O’Halloran. The album then moves into the rolling “Distant Radio,” the best chance at a pop single on the despondently toned record. Even the jazzy song “Moments” makes Lov sound on the verge of tears.
The true highlight of “Push the Heart” is “Just One Breath.” With chord changes reminiscent of “OK Computer”-era Radiohead adding power to Lov’s vocals, and punchier drums than the rest of the record, “Just One Breath” stands out as the most rocking sad song Devics has released this go-around. The juxtaposition of such an atypical sound makes “Just One Breath” exciting, but it could easily stand on its own as a great indie rock song. Despite Devics’ comfort with gorgeous instrumentation and slow-paced sad songs, one can only hope they continue to develop their indie rock sound on subsequent albums.