The 50 Best Albums of 2004
07: Devendra Banhart | Rejoicing in the Hands
Remember when the word "folk" triggered a little spasm of nausea? It's open mic night and a scruffy dude drags a guitar on stage. What's his music like? Oh, you know, acoustic stuff, kind of "folky". God, no, please. As it was with blues, the boomer appropriation of the word "folk" excised idiosyncrasies in favor of standardization. Devendra Banhart brings back to folk the creepy, the playful, and the surreal, and jettisons completely the topical. Miles better than his lo-fi first record (somebody put his warbly 4-track out of its misery, please), Rejoicing in the Hands has Banhart fully internalizing his influences and finding a unique voice. It's an album of brand new songs you've known all your life-- instantly catchy but strange, with an agelessness that suggests Banhart found his tunes in an old steamer trunk. A glorious reminder of what we were missing.