Devendra Banhart | OH ME OH MY... | Review | MK

the best debut record I've heard all year...

...sure to make my top ten. At the tender age of twenty-one, Banhart has released an amazing collection of songs that seem to have sprung from well beyond his short number of years. These twenty-two songs were apparently recorded on various friend's four-track recorders over the last couple of years. Astonishingly, he's managed to make a lo-fi record that doesn't seem lo-fi. There is plenty of hiss, but somehow you don't really notice it. It is almost as if it were part of the songs intrinsic quality. While his influences are apparent (Tyrannosaurus Rex in particular), and periodically you'll notice a quote here or there (for instance a Karen Dalton line or some percussion I recognize from an Incredible String Band record), you never get the feeling that the songs aren't totally of him. The lyrics are particularly brilliant, vaguely surrealistic and idiosyncratic with sinister moments, yet tender ones as well that seem personal and affecting. It's nice to see a young person perform what is ostensibly "folk" music and not use the Palace Brothers as a reference whatsoever. In a way what makes the record so great is that its charms are somewhat elusive and mystifying. I don't doubt that this record could possibly herald the arrival of a major new talent.