Devendra Banhart, Oh Me Oh My... | by Anthony Dhanendran

He has quite a voice and when he puts it to good use the effect is astonishing

Devendra Banhart : Oh Me Oh My The Way The Day Goes Starting off with some Bert Jansch-like guitar, Devendra Banhart’s album draws you in slowly, moving on swiftly via some found noises and random sounds, to two perfectly formed acoustic ditties, before swerving way off into the leftfield again on ‘Nice People…’, with its cackling chorus, “We certainly are nice people”, both disorienting and at the same time lulling the listener.

It continues like this for the rest of the album, careering between the more accessible straight songwriting and the stranger parts of young Devendra’s imagination. Mostly it’s good quality folkish music along the lines of Nick Drake, the aforementioned Jansch and tending towards the current New York antifolk music of Jeffrey Lewis or the Moldy Peaches.

It’s all recorded on cheap equipment and cheaper tapes, meaning plenty of surface noise for that extra authenticity so craved by the antifolk movement. Actually, it’s probably more just feeling that “it feels better that way” to release the tracks without any mastering, editing, redubbing or rerecording. It pays off in that these songs sound more natural and more engaging surrounded by tape hiss and outside noises.

The more pretentious aspects of the album, where he drifts off into manic wailing or under-the-breath mumbing, are easily excused in this environment, as it feels like a singer just warming up in his garage, where he’s allowed any histrionics he likes. Rather than shine the harsh light of better quality production, the album opts for the dimmed glow of useless old four-track recorders to produce the dirty, muffled sound that appears, perversely, on a shiny CD.

He has quite a voice and when he puts it to good use the effect is astonishing. There are no major flaws to this album, but it contains little to reach out and grab the casual listener. That said, he is very talented indeed and a live show or future albums could contain just the spark that’s [just] missing from 'Oh Me Oh My…'. It’s worth getting in now before the rush starts.