Devendra Banhart | Nino Rojo

Philadelphia Inquirer | by Steve Klinge

Surreal lyrics about animals and insects

Devendra Banhart, the young Texan with the penchant for surreal lyrics about animals and insects, heads the so-called freak-folk movement that includes harpist Joanna Newsom and Philly's Espers.

Although his music shares the homemade, untutored unconventionality of folk art, he's schooled enough to cover octogenarian Ella Jenkins' "Wake Up, Little Sparrow" to open his third album, Nino Rojo. He also coaxed obscure British folkie Vashti Banyan to sing on Rejoicing in the Hands, the Nino companion album from earlier this year.

Banhart, who likes to warble atop haunting, finger-picked acoustic guitar figures, can be captivating, especially when he fleshes out "We All Know" and "Be Kind" with swinging horns and joyful sing-along choruses. But he can also be frustratingly and willfully obscure, singing lists of non sequiturs or impenetrable streams of consciousness in brief ditties.