Devendra Banhart | Nino Rojo

Blender | by J.D. Considine

Catchy, disarming folk pop from formerly homeless innocent

Imagine a cross between Jonathan Richman and Elmo with most of the annoying bits removed, and that’s Banhart. Sure, the 23-year-old singer-guitarist likes to sing about dancing spiders and little lost birdies with a quivering, Tiny Tim vibrato. It helps that his idiosyncratic finger-picking and the occasional splash of bass and horns keep things from falling into solo-acoustic monotony. But it’s Banhart’s gift for melody that ultimately carries the day, littering the album with slyly entrancing tunes that recall the pleasure of old campfire songs. It’s enough to cure even a hardened cynic.