Rejoicing in the Hands

Blender Magazine | by Alec Hanley Bemis

Actor-handsome boho’s second album plays like the soundtrack to one fucked-up acid flashback

Like many naive bohemians, 23-year-old Devendra Banhart spent time as an art student and drifter before settling in New York City. What sets him apart is an androgynous voice reminiscent of obsessive depressives Elliott Smith, Billie Holiday and Cat Stevens. It warbles, trills and crackles in his throat, well-matched by a modest folk backdrop — mostly finger-picked guitar and warm hints of piano, bass and strings. If he has a weakness, it’s that these 16 short songs — full of cryptic, evocative lyrics about “empress beards” and laughing lemon trees — wander like nuthouse monologues. But even that suits a singer who explains in one dreamy lyric that “this is the sound that swims inside me”: Lost in an eerie, graceful torpor, he opens his mouth and lets words seep out and linger, like so much intoxicating smoke.