Devendra Banhart, Oh Me Oh My...


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Devendra Banhart is a peculiar, maybe visionary, folk-blues pixie whose surreal 22-song debut often seems the work of an enchanting victim of flower-child psychosis. In Banhart's world of gentle grotesques and fractured whimsy, a lone acoustic guitar accompanies his glam-falsetto warble that matches T. Rex's Marc Bolan with the wild diva quivers of Diamanda Galas. Admirers add Pink Floyd savant Syd Barrett to the comparisons, while detractors think of an Adam Sandler routine. Using secondhand cassette decks, the 21-year-old New Yorker made these raw recordings "for himself" - and it shows. The lo-fi overdubs aren't in sync; the cheap tapes' flutters add odd tonalities; and hand claps and whistles sub for "real" orchestrations. In this unsanitized format, Banhart's quirks can't be squashed. Absent is self-consciousness to color the bizarrely organic allure of his anxious lullabies, or filter the shameless eccentricity of fragile freak-show melodies like "Happy Happy Oh," an unsettling take on coming out of the closet. Banhart won't float everyone's boat. His unpolished odes to "Nice People" and "Legless Love" are as nightmarish as they are compelling. Banhart performs Monday at the Chopping Block in Brigham Circle.