Bearded Hippie Fades to Normalcy

    Screen shot 2009-10-29 at 9.31.49 AMDevendra Banhart
    What Will We Be
    Warner Bros.
    4/10

    Somewhere in the midst of toying with side group Megapuss and sleeping with Natalie Portman, freaky folker Devendra Banhart managed to churn out some cuts for seventh studio album What Will We Be. Unfortunately, the effort doesn’t live up to the tinge of eccentricity we’ve come to expect from the listener-friendly hippie.

    Either he’s been spending a lot of time blazing in Topanga Canyon or recently reached BFF status with Jack Johnson, because Banhart’s freak flag is flying half-mast at best. Topping out at 14 tracks (all his other albums have run between 16 and 22), What Will We Be sees Banhart treading dangerously close to main-mainstream.

    The album begins with a few upbeat numbers, sprinkled with cheery lyrics that achieve warm fuzzies without giving way to nausea. “Can’t Help But Smiling” showcases slow, suave vocals on a smooth melody of drums, shakers and tinkery piano keys, making it almost impossible not to flash a few pearly whites. The folkie even dabbles in foreign languages on a few tracks, keeping up his charming hipster image.

    Everything goes smoothly until mid-album, where the beat slows and shit starts to really drag. Both “First Song for B” and “Last Song for B” (yeah, he gets over B pretty quick) are lonesome, downright depressing piano ballads with the same effect as Jude Law’s receding hairline — they instantly make the whole package a lot less attractive.

    Final track “Foolin” is somewhat of a saving grace — an honest attempt at letting our spirits free — but after having been rocked to sleep, we hardly notice the Banhart’s recovery from depression. In other words, the album wastes a solidly entertaining start with a terrible second half. Let’s just hope this isn’t a peek into his bland new crystal ball.

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