Album Review: Devendra Banhart – What Will We Be

October 24, 2009

Devendra Banhart's interdimensional war uterus.

Concept: Freak folk favorite Banhart releases his seventh studio LP, continuing with the stylistic left turn of the previous Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.

Sound: Banhart has changed a lot in the time since Cripple Crow, and this album seems to acknowledge or even document the transformative period. It used to be that his happiest songs were his most disturbing, and his libidinous eccentricity could be contained within sparse acoustic folk arrangements. The album starts with a complacent, utopian four track lull, continuing to neglect his haggard but effeminate upper range in favor of a lazy Jim Morrison croon. Rather than hold the album to this tone or burst back into his recent affair with rock, Banhart begins to gather the storm clouds with two songs ‘for B’ until the mood of the album seems to have erased itself, and then rattles off a series of disconnected jams. He knows his music history, and he fiddles with an uncommon amount of diversity in genre and tone. Banhart fills in the blanks that the modern burst of folk rock has left. Where most acts will water down their influences and rub them together, Banhart tries to replicate sounds and stack them against each other; whether this is appealing or important is up to the listener.

Lyrics: This is where Banhart seems to be changing the most. His old penchant for simple, grotesque, vaguely mythological blurbs has given way to spiritualization of decrepit rock slang. “Since time began/ you been a long time, and/ Mama ain’t it grand/ that I get to be the fool again…Cause every kiss that I don’t get’s/ another life that I don’t live…Who do you love:/ the lover you can’t forget/ or the lover you haven’t met?” Wiping away his absurdities has only strengthened the other interstitial ballads in which he’s so practiced: “Now I take everything as a good sign/ because I’m in love/ I take everything as a sign from God…Please destroy me/ please destroy me/ please destroy me…A child born singing.

Quick And Dirty: The title says it all. This could be a footnote in Banhart’s career, or a ditch, but Banhart’s path to rejuvenate Americana seems to have such personal ends and means that the flux and hesitation of this album presents voices all equally worthy of being held to. (♦♦♦♦)

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One Response to “Album Review: Devendra Banhart – What Will We Be”

  1. Colin C. said

    Hey Miles.
    this is awesome that you guys are doing this blog. I had no idea this was going on until I stumbled upon the link. The organization and design is excellent and its great to see how consistent you have been with it. I like how concise and clear your reviews are as well. I’ll definately continue to check this blog out so I encourage you to keep it up.

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