This is his fourth studio album and first in the US through XL Recordings. Devendra exploded on the international music scene three years ago, quickly accumulating devoted fans as well as an unusually hefty amount of critical kudos with his debut and subsequent releases. "There's something about Banhart's muse that defies words and logic, something to these songs that hints at a deeper connection to the cosmos than most of us share. Jeff Buckley might have had that gift; John Lennon and Van Morrison certainly did. Add to that list Devendra Banhart, an astonishing talent whose future work promises to bring us to exciting new places" - Harp Magazine. "...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" - Blender. 2005.
Devendra Banhart's fourth album is his most pretty and accessible. It's lush, warm, and inviting. It's likely to make the uber-talented singer-songwriter new fans; unfortunately, it's just as likely to cost him a few old ones. The man is clearly a complex individual capable of visionary music that causes the listener to question many things, including whether or not the artist is putting him or her "on." As the moment-defining, awesome, and potentially self-parodic cover image implies, Mr. Banhart went to great lengths to enshroud himself with some of his most talented friends: Adam Forkner of White Rainbow, Andy Cabic of Vetiver, the free-folk band Feathers, and producer Thom Monahan
among them. But this is no freak-fest; the album is subdued, and very much on an early 70s tip. Recorded at Bearsville near Woodstock, NY, there are touches of Gilberto Gil
,! George Harrison
, T. Rex
, Randy Newman
and Bobby Charles
The only thing missing is Devendra himself, to be perfectly honest. The man's a fabulous mimic, as is amply demonstrated throughout this expensive retro exercise. But Devendra's trilled and affected vocal delivery, gorgeously minimalist accompaniment and eccentric recording methods have all been toned down, or jettisoned entirely. As anyone who's seen him live is full aware, the man's capable of much more than his albums reveal, including Afro-funk jams. The finest songs on the sprawling Cripplewhich is a fine album, to be sure--are the most simple and direct; "Hey Mama Wolf," for instance, is gorgeous, as are all the songs sung in Spanish. More than one song here is explicitly anti-war, making more than musical connections to the Vietnam era, as well as the present, of course: "I heard somebody say that the war ended today/ It's simple, we don't want to kill."Amen to that. - James Conde