Rejoicing in the Hands | by MK

One of the best records you could hope to hear all year

Devendra Banhart's new album is as majestic as his first. Better even. Simply put, it is one of the best records you could hope to hear all year. The remarkable thing is that trumping an acclaimed debut is not such an easy thing to do in this day and age, with new release Tuesdays continually feeling like a big letdown and highly anticipated record after record failing to live up to the hype. Rejoicing in the Hands does, it is surely an album of great depth. Many of the rough edges he'd previously exhibited have been smoothed out; not one song here is presented simply as a sketch.

A proper studio serves his voice and arrangements well -- I'd previously worried that the multi-tracked vocals on Oh Me Oh My… could possibly be a crutch that masked a set of weak pipes. On the contrary, he's as stunningly expressive as Tim Buckley in his prime. Banhart's voice is a subtly shifting quaver that probes the implications of each and every finely crafted phrase he rolls out. It's a voice that bears witness to the fact that the worlds he sings of are the ones he's lived in. To flesh out the tunes this time he's added exquisitely recorded rollicking congas, creaky pianos, and softly melodramatic strings. His acoustic fingerpicking is bar none. Vashti Bunyan turns in a guest appearance. What more could you ask for?

If you'd picked up Oh Me Oh My… and found much of it to be too idiosyncratic, I'd beg you to reconsider Banhart's artistry here. There are certain truths to be found in these songs, and I'm convinced that they're a veritable balm for those psyches too brighted out by our age's informational interferences.