Devendra Banhart, Oh Me Oh My....

Philadelphia Inquirer | by A.D. Amorosi

Odd tales get a lush handling

Sometimes music's finest moments seem to come out of nowhere. Consider 21-year-old Texan Devendra Banhart's debut disc, whose sounds are dragged from a black hole of spooky Bolan-esque vocals, finger-picked Fahey-like guitars, and dadaist lyrics.

Banhart's Oh Me Oh My ... The Way the Day Goes by the Sun is Setting Dogs Are Dreaming Lovesongs of the Christmas Spirit (Young God) has 22 tunes about places he's never been ("Michigan State") and about romancing people he can't remember ("The Thumbs Touch Too Much").

But don't think his art is naive or purposefully primitive, or surrealist.

"The writing is . . . thought out to the millionth little hair on a one million billion trillion quadro-gazillion. . . haired insect," he says. "If surrealism is an attempt to write or express the subconscious, my writing is anything but that. In the end, I know a baby's about to be born."

At first, Oh Me seems the grimmest ending to a holiday season since Tim Burton rolled through the pumpkin patch. This may be due to Banhart's choice of topics - odd tales of the true, not-so-true, and strangely quizzical.

Ultimately, though, Oh Me is inspired by childhood memories (the whistling on "Happy Happy Oh" is what his mother used to put him to sleep) and by bluesmen Fred McDowell and Mississippi John Hurt. And it's as lushly melodic as it is roughshod, and as beautiful as it is terrorizing.