devendra banhart: niño rojo

Wackiness | by Andrew

his most accessible album to date

"Hey there Mr. Happy Squid, you move so psychedelically." Now, Devendra, I love you.

That's right, Devendra Banhart is back with his second album of the year, Niño Rojo. Now it's completely apparent how he almost single handedly led the 'new-folk' uprising, backed by a team of fellow flag bearers Joanna Newsom and Vetiver, among others. His competency and ability as a songwriter are amazing, and a second album in one year exemplifies how naturally making music comes to him.

The songs of Niño Rojo were recorded in the same session as those of Rejoicing in the Hands, but this is far from being a "Rejoicing Pt. 2". The new album represents everything that Rejoicing didn't. It's jam packed with extra instrumentation, choir-like choruses, and most importantly, fun. Niño Rojo is as hippy of an album as any other of the recent 'new-folk' albums, full of animal, nature, and vegetarianism references. The words "Niño rojo" themselves mean "red son," and the music is imbued with a childlike spirit and every bit of energy and happiness you'd expect from a warm red sun. And, while the album at some times still touches on the darkness, it never reaches moments like "The Body Breaks" or "Dogs They Make Up the Dark", and never becomes as sentimental as "Will is My Friend". Instead, the album packs the secretly pop "At the Hop", in which Devendra shares a duet with Andy Cabic of Vetiver, and the chorus hums with background 'oooohhh's and 'aaahhh's that are absolutely heavenly. "Little Yellow Spider" is so cute and silly, you can't help but love it, and "Noah"'s chorus harmony is beautifully touching.

Still, the album is far from perfect. Like all of his albums, in my opinion, Niño Rojo hosts the occasional mediocre song. The thing is – the songwriting is so superb, I believe my distaste of some songs stems more from the diversity of songs. Devendra covers so much ground on every record, it almost makes sense that one person alone cannot love every single song.

Don't ask me why, but it's actually taken me this long to finally truly come around to Banhart. At first his voice was utterly unbearable, much like that of Joanna Newsom, but both of their voices become increasingly soothing in their own eccentric ways after each listen. But it wasn't only that, it was something else challenging about the music itself, not to say that it was 'challenging', but it wasn't quite suitable for the indie kid on the go. With that said, Niño Rojo is his most accessible album to date, if not anything else, simply because its tone is less heavy than his previous works.

"I ate the fishes, they got no fur."