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Devandra Banhart

What Will We Be

[Warner Bros.; 2009]

By ; November 13, 2009 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Folk? Psych-Folk? Folk-Rock? Freak-Folk? Avant-Folk? Ever since Devendra Banhart started receiving decent amounts of press attention, about the time of 2004’s Rejoicing In The Hands, bedroom bloggers and high circulation print journos alike have struggled in vain to package Mr Banhart into a convenient pigeonhole. Logic suggests there’s a perfectly good reason for that; he can’t and won’t fit, no matter how hard we try. Role in album number seven…

What Will We Be sees the hairy, movie star romancer return with his latest LP; a long player, in the true sense of the term. Tying up at just under an hour, back to front, this record provides a bulging example of Banhart’s extensive repertoire and demonstrates his forcible desire for a lack of boundaries.

Catchy folk song and opening number Can’t Help But Smiling,” flows smoothly into second track, “Angelika” which provides a neat segue into an upbeat Latin ditty, reminding of mojitos in the summer time. This album is a real blending pot of… well, everything.

“Baby” plays welcome to a gentle disco beat, that one could imagine being played in funky dance halls of decades gone by. “Rats,” one of the albums longer tracks is an all out, 70’s rock and roll number with changing tempos, key changes and warm sounding bass licks, all sprinkled with Devendra’s own Robert Plant-esque vocal performance.

What Will We Be is a peculiar record in that it is Banhart’s first upon a major label, yet there is no clear stand out singles. The fact is, any one of these tracks could be released individually, to moderate success. A condition of release of the record through Warner’s subsidiary Reprise, one may wonder? There definitely doesn’t seem to be any of the more challenging listens that have been features of the man’s previous efforts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This is an album of individual songs, yet somehow they all work together. It is in the record’s variety that it maintains interest. The result is Devendra Banhart’s most capturing and listenable album to date. In it’s diversity, nothing feels out of place, the track listing is superb, throwing our ears right through the motions and our hearts as well.

If any questions remain of a ‘sell out’ over a move from indie kings XL, there’s really no bother. We’ve had Devendra’s experimental stuff (which was ace) but now here’s a big juicy album of tasty, satisfying tunes, which he demonstrates to high standard and seemingly with ease.

This really is a lovely record. Sit down with it for an hour and the time will pass unnoticed. What Will We Be is exactly what I expect and want of Devendra Banhart. Challenging but not alienating, beautiful, but not quaint and certainly listenable, but not disposable.


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