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Friday, October 31, 2014 
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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
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+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
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Devendra Banhart
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Rejoicing In The Hands
Young God
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Underneath Devendra Banhart's pillow it wouldn't be surprising to find a worn copy of Tim Buckley's definitive Goodbye and Hello. A year ago it would have been much more common to find in this spot a copy of Marc Bolan's pre-T. Rex solo album Beginning of Doves. Banhart's debut, Oh Me Oh My, used similar techniques to Bolan's in creating a stripped-down low-fidelity series of psych-folk fragments that was equal measures trick and treat. On his second album, Rejoicing in the Hands, co-produced by Banhart and onetime Swans leader/ Young God Records head Michael Gira, he shrugs off the mantle of psychedelic merry prankster and embraces the role of professional musician with a self-assured air of pomp and circumstance. Leaving his four-track behind for a real studio and making use of some musician friends and associates to flesh out his compositions, Banhart has crafted an album worthy of the hype that surrounded his uneven but highly regarded debut. The trickery and oddball musical pieces that marred Oh Me Oh My — some of the album was recorded on friends' answering machines — have been replaced by a more mature and developed old-time folk soundtrack that contains both the feel of traveling vaudeville shows and the spirit of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

This tone is evident from the start as "This Is the Way" finds Banhart's often reed-like voice recast as soulful, which adds a gentle flourish to this sweet folk song. Acoustic guitar mimics the vocal melody to add a sense of harmony to an already powerful performance. "A Sight to Behold," a ballad about the pains of love, leans on the same formula with slight but important variation. A gentle chorus of strings and a winning quaver to Banhart's vocal complements the verses. Both sell the pain and drawn emotion of this composition.

Some of Banhart's coy madness is still intact though, as his lyrics still string together a host of paradoxes that often add up to little more than a jumble of sounds and words. The jubilant "This Beard Is for Siobhan," which features such nonsensical fragments as "Because my teeth don't bite I can take them out dancing/ I could take my little teeth out and I could show them a real good time" backed by some Django Reinhart-influenced, finger-picked guitar work. The song reaches a crescendo as Banhart chants the phrase "A real good time/ A good time" over and over until a bashing percussionist joins the fray and the song explodes into the promised rambunctious good time.

"Will Is My Friend," with simple piano and acoustic guitar accompaniment, is one of the finest songs Banhart has yet recorded. It features a more laconic vocal style that references Bessie Smith more than any of his folk influences. It also brings to memory another Californian folk singer who used a soulful voice to complement his stirring folk compositions — Tim Buckley. The song begins with a remembrance of a lost friend with a voice like British bluesman John Mayall's, who Banhart is willing back to life in a shamanistic fashion:"Will is my friend/ Will sings like John/ Come back to California." The delivery of the lyrics wilts, quavers and resurrects itself much in the way Tim Buckley did on his classic "Song to the Siren."

Banhart also stretches outside of the normal folk fold with the infusion of a certain world flavor on a pair of tracks. "Fall" features a flamenco guitar accompanied by a jilting rhythm of bongos and various other percussion, which results in a compelling modern mariachi sound. Expanding upon the homage to Mexican music and culture, "Todo Los Dolores" merges the flamenco sound with sultry Spanish language vocals. While both tracks step sideways from Banhart's fundamental style, each track retains enough of his distinct character so that both feel at home in the context of this album.

The combination of timeless songs, superb production and Banhart's often mesmerizing performance make for a very strong album. At certain points the ghost of Woody Guthrie will surface in the background, while at others it may be '60s folk luminaries like Bert Jansch, Jackson Frank, or at his best, Tim Buckley. Whatever the point of reference, the greater realization is that with just a few collections under his belt, Banhart is establishing himself as a folk heavyweight; a writer and performer who is equally adept at captivating both the youth and the serious folk music fans.


by Jason Korenkiewicz




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