DEVENDRA BANHART, Rejoicing in the Hands

Seattle Weekly | by NED RAGGETT

At once attractive and unsettling

Uncountable numbers of bands have happily helped themselves to T. Rex’s blueprint of strutting glam pop, but young singer/songwriter Devendra Banhart has found partial roots in Marc Bolan’s earlier, more overtly folk-tinged work. Banhart’s voice possesses a haunting quaver that recalls Bolan’s unearthly keening, but he matches it with a wide appreciation of Bolan’s many—and often more musically accomplished—late ’60s peers, like the Incredible String Band. Banhart’s debut album, Oh Me Oh My . . . , showed his potential in a fragmented way (it mostly consisted of very short demos), but Rejoicing in the Hands has far more memorable songs, not to mention being better produced, with label boss Michael Gira adding a minimal rhythm section and string overdubs that enhance Banhart’s direct, intimate appeal. Throughout, Banhart plays some deft guitar (“Poughkeepsie,” “Tit Smoking in the Temple of Artesan Mimicry”) and warbles reflective, often playful lyrics (“Now because my teeth don’t bite/I can take them out dancing, alright!”), culminating with the breathtaking voice-and-piano “Autumn’s Child,” which, like Rejoicing in whole, is at once attractive and unsettling.