Devendra Banhart, Nino Rojo

Kitty Magik | by Bart Schaneman

The line between reality and fantasy is constantly blurred

A unique voice can carry a lot of weight, distinguish an artist, make him instantly recognizable. Folkie Devendra Banhart's voice is like nothing I've heard before. Sometimes it sounds old, but he's in his twenties. Other times it sounds like a woman, but he's a man. Sometimes he even sounds pretty traditional-it all depends on the tone of the song, and the tones of his songs shift as dramatically as his voice. The songs on Nino Rojo have been polished, but they're still stark, acoustic, and carry the association of Nick Drake, in the southern Florida swamp standing on a rotting corpse, picking the same old guitar until his teeth fall out. See, the thing about Devendra is that the line between reality and fantasy is constantly blurred, making the meaning of his crazy lyrics slippery. Almost as slippery as attempting to describe what his voice sounds like.