DEVENDRA BANHART | Rejoicing in the Hands

Skyscraper Magazine, Spring

In every way as enchantingly strange

A couple years ago, to a receptive critical audience, Devendra Banhart released his debut record, Oh Me Oh My, a compelling combination of lo-fi indie acoustic singer-guitarist fare and stimulating creativity in songwriting and delivery. That record earned Banhart comparisons to outsider artists ranging from Nick Drake to Syd Barrett to Karen Dalton. And, while not centering the target, all comfortably lodge in the periphery. Rejoicing in the Hands removes only the lo-fi. This crisp, simple recording cleanly bares Banhart's gift of voice and instrumental dexterity. The songs here, too, improve on the already wonderful ones on that first record. They are generally more realized, and are in every way as enchantingly strange. Banhart has a rare ability to put one in mind of the entire story of Twentieth Century popular music (blues, folk, pop and rock), and his singular vocal means no mistaking this for anyone else's sixteen tracks of sound with the deviation of the new yet vaguely timeless. In his early twenties, Banhart seamlessly unifies the wide-eyed wonder of childhood with complex adult concerns. The range of emotion and imagery is broad: an involving psychedelic love song ("Insect Eyes"), a languid swaying meditation ("When the Sun Shone On Vetiver"), heavy-hearted longing ("Will Is My Friend"). Nothing on this economically constructed record is wide of the mark. A companion album is due in the fall.