Devendra Banhart
Nino Rijo
2004
A-



artists of every feather: follow Devendra Banhart's example and execute whatever willpower needed to resist the double album. Transcend the fact that your band has written 47 totally wicked songs for your next project. Dismiss the notion that the desired flow would be destroyed if any songs were to be removed. The curse surrounding the two-disc institution is alive and well in the western world; it disbanded the Beatles, preempted the death of a couple rappers and swallowed the ingenuity of a few classic Rock and Roll bands. The music gods do not seem particularly impressed with musicians who can release more than twenty songs at one time, so save some of your musical magic for later.

Banhart, 2004's uberartist, has practiced extraordinary restraint in rationing his left brain ingenuity. Since 2002 he has released three albums totaling 48 tracks, but those releases represent just a piece of his vast composition bank. For his last recording session, Banhart wrote a ridiculous 57 tracks. When those tacks are coupled with the 75 or so said to be recorded for his debut, Oh Me, Oh, My, the eccentric folk artist has recorded roughly 132 songs intended for releases spanning less than two years. If that is not amazing enough, this was all done before his 23rd birthday.

Nino Rijo, Banhart's second 2004 release, continues his budding legacy in stunning fashion. It acts as a perfect counterpart to Rejoicing in the Hands, featuring the same elements that made its successor such a valued release, while incorporating enough new ideas to make it much more than Rejoicing in the Hands: Part Deux. The warbling vocals remain distinctly Devendra, releasing lyrical subjects that range from the whimsical to the endearingly absurd to the genuinely touching and the production, still saturated with warmth and sincerity, breathes an analog, rough-hewn aura that sometimes sounds as if it was recorded 45 years ago, and sometimes sounds as if it features a 45 year-old vocalist.

While the songs are still sparsely arranged, allowing Barnhart's presence to remain the focal point, a few more instruments are thrown into the final mixes than one might expect. The prospect of Devendra having a smaller piece of the musical pie might worry some, but all the instruments play a worthwhile role. Sprinklings of upright piano and plaintive electric guitar in "Noah", the trombone figure and wispy back-up vocal ensemble of "Ay Mama" and the—believe it or not—melody-mimicking electric keyboard riff featured in the playfully haunting "A Ribbon," all act as worthy compositional complements. Departing furthest from his previous minimalism, "Be Kind" is a notable apex within the album's string of highlights. Devendra's melodies are fused with a collective, head bob-inducing instrumental ensemble of rich bass notes, a slapping drum kit and a Morricone harmonica riff.

When engulfed in Banhart's playful world of music, you can’t help but shake your head and smile at its brilliance. Logistically, it’s tough to pinpoint what exactly separates him, but embedded in Devendra Banhart's compositions is a realistic, sincere, invigorating force that seeps into your skin quite differently than anything else. Banhart's personal approach to songwriting relies not on writhing over the inner-anguish of his soul, but providing an introspective look at who he is: a lovable, immensely talented guy who is pretty darn weird. He lets birds chirp in the background, mutters unidentifiable vocal warm-ups before songs, and rarely executes an expected rhyme scheme. In "At The Hop", a brilliant collection of kooky, sentimentalism, Devendra pleads to be put in the subject's suitcase, so he'll never be apart from his companion.

After yet another brilliant release from Devendra Banhart, we share his sentiment, hoping the talented singer-songwriter continues to take us along on his journey as one of the more memorable musicians of our time.



Reviewed by: Kyle McConaghy
Reviewed on: 2004-10-06
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