Like Andrew Bird on steroids, DeVotchKa
mixes strings, guitar swells and thesaurus-aided lyrics into something grand. From its beginnings as a raggle-taggle bunch indebted to gypsy music, Irish folk and Eastern European brass, the band has pared back its ethnic influences little by little, allowing Nick Urata's disarmingly tender voice to take center stage. This year's Curse Your Little Heart
mixes an original tune with covers of songs made famous by the Velvet Underground, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Frank Sinatra (which also give a little sampling of the band's influences). While there's a touch of the dramatic in DeVotchKa's music, it can't hold a candle to opener My Brightest Diamond
. Shara Worden sings quavering, desperate torch songs that owe much to both delicate indie-rock and chamber music; her Bring Me the Workhorse
works as a marriage of Antony and the Johnsons' gentle restraint and Fiona Apple's beguiling, seething diatribes.