Saturday, November 7, 2009

Review: Devendra Banhart - What Will We Be (* * * 1/2)

Just this year, Devendra Banhart signed to a major label (Warner Bros.). It took seven years promoting himself on independents for this to happen, but the feat is nonetheless impressive considering the nature of the artist’s peculiar brand of folk music. Granted, the eccentric songwriter’s oddness rarely detracts from his ability to create charming and melodic songs, and his appeal isn’t difficult to hear, but Banhart’s off-kilter style and frequently over-the-top artistic choices (2005’s Cripple Crow is 22 songs long and clocks in at 74 minutes) make him seem an unlikely candidate for crossing over to the mainstream. But maybe I’m just not giving these bigger labels enough credit. Of course, such a move is sure to make Banhart’s long-time fans nervous—the list of artists that have disappointed in this situation is a mile long—but he mostly retains his strange and distinctive edge on his sixth full-length effort, What Will We Be, another welcome if somewhat uneven addition to an impressive catalog. (Continue Reading...)