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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2007
Format: Audio CD
First off I have to say this is a great album. If your into Devendra Banhart and liked Cripple Crow then do not hesitate now, buy this album. If you new to Devendra Banhart than this really is a pretty good place to start. The album has a much fuller sound than any of his previous efforts, due to the fact that he features a full band. It also very accessible to people who are not really into the whole Freak Folk scene. I really enjoy his voice on this album as compared to any of his other albums because on a few tracks he tries singing in a lower octive, which I enjoyed. Also, Rich Robinson, guitarist for the Black Crows, appears on a track. As the other reviewer said, the words are a little hard to read, but not that bad. The art scheme fits with his other albums and personally I like it. Bottom line, is that Devendra Banhart has made another great album, and great albums are a lost are in this radio world of singles.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Giving off the same earthy vibe as his terrific Cripple Crow, Devendra Banhart taps into the good vibrations of California's Topanga Canyon. The result is the friskiest and most musically solid album of his unashamedly eclectic career. Songs bounce between 60's psychedelic to the Jackson 5-ish Motown of "Lover" to 50's novelty of "Shabop Shalom" and it's humorous "wonder wonder who, who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls" quip, and it all works like a dreamy California morning. Even the Spanish language songs meld effortlessly into the whole of the CD.

Banhart is also getting more adventurous. While his album is richer musically than anything he has done before, he is hardly getting slick. "Smokey Rolls..." seems far more dependant on feel than fidelity (there are times when his vocal yelps distort annoyingly), and I would guess that the vocal pitch correction softwear was NOT brought in to smooth over the errors. All the better. With a standout six minutes of a song like "Sea Horse" making music sound communal again, "Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon" is a minor miracle; an album by an artist who is willing to throw commercial cautions to the wind and make a full length CD that holds together as a piece. Since most artists seem bound and determined to do nothing but create jingles, singles and ring-tones lately, Devendra Banhart must now be counted as a serious contender as a maker of progressive popular music.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2007
Format: Audio CD
First of all, I think that this one is Devendra's greatest album, even better than 'Cripple Crow'. Despite his vocal limitations (Jeff Buckley he is not, even though he does have that whisper every now and then), Devendra is remarkable at living within his musical genre, not stretching himself too far, and still make a cohesive record that is not boring or tedious.

I found this recording to be a little more difficult to get into upon first listen though. A lot of songs sounded rough-edged and harsher, and the production was less tight than "Cripple Crow". Still, it lends a certain folksy rusticness to the entire production that ultimately worked in its' favor. Listen to the opener "Christobal". How could you not be moved by it?

My favorite though, is the 9 minute long epic "Sea Horse". However, Devendra's increasing tendency to record Spanish language tracks sometimes don't work - here however, they do. What I especially liked is that even though this remains an 'alternative folk' album, the mood is very 'Mulholland Drive', with elements of 1950s swing showing up every now and then. Sometimes theres a string section very reminiscent of The Beatles. Its this sort of pop sensibility that I think makes Devendra very accessible, and even though you may not know much about the artists' previous work, this album is definitely essential.

Like Imogen Heap and Patti Smith, Devendra seems to be getting better with every release, and I would consider this to be the most 'essential' of all his albums (its at least ten times better than 'Nino Rojo') and this is at least twice as good as 'Cripple Crow'.

If you're not sure, download a track or two or listen to samples. Like Tori Amos' "Scarlet's Walk", this is a headphones album that needs to be listened to on your Ipod without ever skipping a track. If you like investing time and energy in real music, this is the perfect album to lend your intellect and higher senses to. It will pay you back richly.

Highly Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Unlike others *cough* Andrew Bird *cough* that rise up from obscurity, Devendra tends to keep getting better with every album. In my opinion, this album kicks that crap out of anything Devendra made in the past. It has a 1950s do-wop, 1968 Beatles, with a dash of Brazilian - thing going one. Lots of Spanish on this album, but as an English monolinguist - I still loved it. The English lyrics are funkier than any Devendra album that I've heard in the past.

And if I were to chart his improvement on a bar graph, every album seems to get better and better. Even on Nino Rojo, there were a few cringe-worthy songs that I always skip. But on Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, every song is to be relished. He hasn't lost any of his whimsical lyric writing powers. In fact, this higher production quality album seems to give Devendra more a license to be free spirited, if that was even possible. Devendra calls his style "Naturalismo." So you would think that a higher production value would cripple the free spirit. But instead, in this case, a higher production value helps him soar. This album has been repeating in my iPod since it was released. Keep going Banhart! Felicitación!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2008
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Okay, so I admit it. I bought this album solely because I developed a miserable crush on Devendra based ONLY on his looks. But then I began to think perhaps maybe he had some talent to go along with his funky persona. So, I chose the latest album. Let me tell you, I am ever so glad I did. I am hooked. Much the way I became hooked on all my favorites such as Cat Stevens, Elliott Smith, Jethro Tull, Donovan, Leonard Cohen, PJ Harvey, and the list goes on...Devendra is another one that I will follow to see where his career takes him. I only hope he doesn't become too commercial or too cocky when his popularity grows and his fame takes him to places he might not otherwise find himself going to. This album will not disappoint. There is certainly enough on here to choose from depending on your mood or vibe. I love, I mean love, that he sings in spanish too. Very sexy and sultry. I have a clear vision of Devendra and his many talented friends all hanging out in Topanga Canyon making groovy music together....and doing other various things that shall not be mentioned here.. I only wish I was young enough to become a groupie. Mmm good.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2008
Format: Audio CD
"Smokey..." brings to mind a magic realist novel set to music, conjuring up the ocean, seahorses and the ghosts of Tropicalia. But while there are joyful, playful sounds on the likes of Lover and Carmensita, the album is also infused with sadness over the end of a relationship.

It feels like this was recorded outside on a warm summer night, after the most of the guests at the party have drifted away and only the hardcore remain around the fire. The musicians throw everything into the mix - reggae, bossa nova, psychedelia, folk. There are shades of British pop mavericks Shack and Orange Juice at times, and long-lost folk singer Vashti Bunyan makes an appearance.

The overall effect is mysterious, magical and moving.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2008
Format: Audio CD
I would've never thought that Devendra Banhart would go and record one of my all-time favorite albums / cd's. I originally bought Rejoicing In The Hands and didn't really care that much for it (I sold it), but Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon is an entirely different matter. This one is a timeless beauty - a modern classic. I am never going to tire of these wonderful songs - I already know this for sure. Honorable mention goes to Seahorse, Bad Girl (my favorite song here) and Freely, which reminds me a little of the J.J. Cale classic Magnolia.
But all the songs are wonderful, each in their own way. Highly recommended!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2007
Format: Audio CD
the album is great. devendra banhart combines so many music genres so effortlessly - there's something for anyone and everyone on this album. compared to his earlier stuff this one is longer, more instrumental, he even dabbles a little with psychedelic sounds by echoing and fading his voice with guitar riffs. devendra's sound is maturing, with less emphasis on an 'awkward' voice, and more confidence with his completely unique sound. if you love devendra, this album will renew your vows. if you're new to his stuff, this is a great place to start.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2010
Format: Audio CD
This album is, in my opinion, much better than Cripple Crow. I'm terrible at writing reviews. Just know that I recommend it highly. The best tracks are "So Long Old Bean", "Samba Vexillographica", "Shabop Shalom", okay, you know what, it would take me too long to type out the rest. Every song is great though, there aren't any slumpy parts to this album if that makes sense.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2009
Format: Audio CD
I have really enjoyed Devendra's music for a while now. I am a big fan of Nino Rojo and Rejoicing in the Hands, and I really like a lot of "Oh me Oh My". I have not yet listened to Cripple Crow, but like the few songs I have heard off it.

I first heard the song "Cristobal" off of this release on KEXP radio in Seattle. I loved it. I then found out that his new cd was coming out soon, and I was really excited. I purchased it and honestly I was largely disappointed upon first listen. There were definitely songs and elements that I liked, but I thought it was overall a very poor change from his older stuff. I really liked his minimalistic, acoustic, folky weirdness that he gave us. A lot of what made his music so appealing to me seemed to be missing from this album. I would have given it two stars when I first heard it, mostly because I was shocked that it was so dramatically different that the Devendra Banhart that I was use to. Over a series of a few months I played the album a few more times and each time it grew on me more and more. Now, I enjoy it just as much as Nino Rojo and Rejoicing in the Hands. It is very different, but a good different.

In short, if you like Devendra's older works and don't find this cd particularly appealing, give it another shot. If you are new to Devendra, you may enjoy it immensely for what it is. It just took me a while to adjust to Devendra's new direction. The musical arrangements are more developed and complex. He still infuses the music with his wonderfully strange, almost psychedelic influences. I look forward to Devendra's new release this October.

Favorite tracks:
Sea Horse
Cristobal
Samba Vexillographica
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