Devendra Banhart: Mala (Nonesuch) 

No less weird than ever, Devendra Banhart is nonetheless an entirely different type of weird on his latest album, with a haircut, a New York City address and an art-school cosmopolitan sound that's miles away from his early folk music.

Sometimes poppy, sometimes sounding like the mellower end of Yo La Tengo, Banhart has moved past the spare folk—sometimes breezy and carefree, sometimes drawn in spooky tones—of Niño Rojo and Rejoicing in the Hands, his breakthrough 2004 albums, and the experimental hippie orchestra of Cripple Crow and Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.

Backed by a groovily twisting guitar riff and some electronic peripheral flourishes on "Never Seen Such Good Things," Banhart makes the point that once past, our life's greatest experiences are gone. It's a complex notion, the bittersweet aftermath of carpe diem.

The rest of the album has its hits and misses. On the plus side, there's the Spanish-sung "Mi Negrita," with its smooth South American sway; the intimate instrumental "The Ballad of Keenan Milton"; the Luna-like guitar of "Für Hildegard von Bingen." The misses: "Your Fine Petting Duck," which toys with the neo-disco realm; the plodding, lovesick "Won't You Come Home"; the unnecessary, ornamental title song; and the repetitious grind of closer "Taurobolium."

It's a long way from Banhart's early years to Mala, and while it's a bit strange to hear such different music, it's definitely a fascinating journey.

More by Eric Swedlund


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