Recordings: Devendra Banhart – Cripple Crow

    On one level it seems completely wrong to call Devendra Banhart’s Cripple Crow mature. Its 22 songs waft between childish romanticism and solemn innocence, even waxing dopey to a point where it seems Banhart might be going off the deep end. But that’s remarkably different from his last two records, where he spent many moments hanging over the edge.

    Looking back from the light of this new document, it’s clear how Banhart’s ga-ga-guru personality effort obscured the rugged grace of his older songs: In place of the overdone vocal vibrato he used to throw in everywhere, Banhart sings, sometimes in his native Spanish, with straight-up sincerity. King Weirdo’s vocals still have their warbly quirks, but now he’s got a voice, not a gimmick.

    Similarly, his songs have grown into delicate, diverse movements where echoes of Latin percussion envelop impromptu hippie howls, and might then step out into a reverb-y, electric rock-stomp or somewhere equally far-flung. The lush piano ripples of “Heard Somebody Say” watercolor a background as effortlessly beautiful as any of his previous tunes, with war-lamenting lyrics so heart-pluckingly simple they could have been penned by a toddler.

    That line between the absurdity and profundity of youthful naivete has always been home turf for Banhart. Unlike his previous efforts, Cripple Crow puts him confidently on the profound side.

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