Devendra Banhart: Nino Rojo

BBC | by The Daily Growl

Prolific new US folkie keeps churning ‘em out…

Devendra Banhart is prolific, isn’t he? Not only is this his second album this year, it’s his second in four months! Now, this may be seen as a surfeit of creative genius, but while the lad (he’s only 22 years old) is undoubtedly talented, I’m not quite sure how discerning he is. Both the previous album ‘Rejoicing in the Hands…’ and this one (both XL Records) were apparently recorded in the same sessions, but I reckon he could have released one great album, rather than two slightly inconsistent ones.

There are so many good ingredients in his skewed take on folk music: a bit of an eccentric backwoodsman persona, quirky lyrics (like “Shakes your pretty little clavicle”), stripped-down acoustic guitars, cracked, quivering vocals, and so often it works well – lovely bluesy strains on ‘Wake up Little Sparrow’ and ‘My Ships’, the fantastic horn flourish at the end of ‘We All Know’, and the majestically ragged ‘Electric Heart’. He’s got a thing about writing songs about animals too (see ‘…Sparrow’ and ‘Little Yellow Spider’). But elsewhere there’s just a bit too much meandering to hold my attention and some of the songs are just not that strong.

That said, this album (and ‘Rejoicing…’) is still well worth listening to, and with a little more tough decisions made (or a good editor), he’ll release classic album yet.