20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Devendra Banhart’s What Will We Be by Irina Dvalidze

20 Watts Reviews Devendra Banhart’s What Will We Be

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD “Rome (Neighbours with Devendra Banhart Remix)” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 17/20 Watts

The only way to describe Devendra Banhart is as the pinnacle of hipster genius. Let’s be honest, anyone who can pull off a sari, elaborate guy-liner and a middle name Obi (yes, like the Jedi Master), deserves appropriate recognition.

Working mostly with lo-fi, under independent labels, Devendra will finally release an album — What Will We Be — through a major label.  Co-produced by Banhart and Paul Butler of A Band of Bees, album features Noah Georgeson, Greg Rogove, Luckey Remington, and Rodrigo Amarante, all of whom contributed to Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, arguably the best Banhart release to date.

If you didn’t already guess, the album is nothing short of spectacular. It is consistent, without losing the variation within the sound. While it employs a radically diverse combination of melodies, What Will We Be remains accessible.  The release retains a delicate artistic appeal through impeccably smooth refrains.

Poppy flower child tracks are sprinkled with just the right essence of mellow bossa nova. Each key change is a tranquil arrangement of melodic perfection. Banhart explores some new fronts, as far as incorporating more jazzy piano keys, which are not so dominant in his previous works, especially in tracks “Agelika” and “Chin Chin & Muck Muck.”

The transition into a slightly more classical direction is subtle enough to highlight Devendra’s signature folk acoustics. While we may argue for Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon as Banhart’s best work, What Will We Be accomplishes something we have not seen from him before. The latter is impeccably clean-cut and appealing, with hardly a single unnecessary note. The psychedelic tempos are a lot tighter and the vocals give just the right range.

Overall, What Will We Be maintains a pretty delicate balance between artistic innovation and mass appeal. Undoubtedly memorable, it dominates from every angle, appealing and irresistible after every listen.

— Irina Dvalidze

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