14 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

With his drum circles–gone–wild percussion and Spanish-tongued romantic ballads turned flash-mob campfire sing-alongs, Devendra Banhart has been easily lumped into the freak-folk movement. He also plays up the charismatic cult-leader vibe with his serious beard, intense gaze, and lyrics that are either deeply philosophical or weird and funny in a jive kind of way. He proudly waves the freak-folk flag by juxtaposing unlikely musical elements. "Mi Negrita" sounds like an easy-listening record bedeviled by cavemen whose backing vocals have nothing to do with the lyrics (which reflect on Banhart's Venezuelan roots). "Your Fine Petting Duck" combines carefully fingerpicked guitar lines with a children's choir as the tune transforms into a synth-crazy dance track and the singer explains why he's bad news. "The Ballad of Keenan Milton," with a police siren in the distance, is an acoustic guitar instrumental that sounds like it was borrowed from a '70s movie. The entire album, in fact, plays like a mixtape, with a variety of styles meeting a variety of sound fidelities.

EDITORS’ NOTES

With his drum circles–gone–wild percussion and Spanish-tongued romantic ballads turned flash-mob campfire sing-alongs, Devendra Banhart has been easily lumped into the freak-folk movement. He also plays up the charismatic cult-leader vibe with his serious beard, intense gaze, and lyrics that are either deeply philosophical or weird and funny in a jive kind of way. He proudly waves the freak-folk flag by juxtaposing unlikely musical elements. "Mi Negrita" sounds like an easy-listening record bedeviled by cavemen whose backing vocals have nothing to do with the lyrics (which reflect on Banhart's Venezuelan roots). "Your Fine Petting Duck" combines carefully fingerpicked guitar lines with a children's choir as the tune transforms into a synth-crazy dance track and the singer explains why he's bad news. "The Ballad of Keenan Milton," with a police siren in the distance, is an acoustic guitar instrumental that sounds like it was borrowed from a '70s movie. The entire album, in fact, plays like a mixtape, with a variety of styles meeting a variety of sound fidelities.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5

84 Ratings

Mala

noahlennox,

Whoa. first review, i'm surprised a flock of banhart fans weren't here already.. Anyways this is a great record. I just finished listening to it and I'm blown away. It's an interesting direction for devendra, very pop driven tunes here. He's drifted far away from his distinctive folk sound he established in his brilliant earlier efforts and am almost happy he did because he's matured so much as a songwriter. My favorite part about this record is the instrumentation, beautiful textures, he's even started to incorporate a lot of electronic elements.. To sum it up tho, if your a fan of his I highly recommend it. I was hesitant to get this at first because I was very disappointed in "What Will We Be" but Mala has definitely redeemed him in my book. And I know i'm going to be playing this on repeat for at least the next few weeks. So
cheers Devendra!

Mixed bag

Heather Garcia,

As with pretty much every album Devendra has released Mala definitely had to grow on me. It feels a little slicker than pretty much anything he's put out to date. Very produced, but not to the records detriment. The quirk and heart and sincerety is still very much present. Mixed bag, as far as the tracks are concerned. Mi Negrita is so damned lovely and heart wrenching. Your Fine Petting Duck reeks of "it's not you, it's me", and the haunting female vocals are probably one of my favorite parts of the album. It does devolve into a dance party at the end of the song which I wasn't crazy about on the first and second listens, but give it a chance and you'll look forward to it after a while. I was ready for a new Devendra album and he didnt disappoint. It's once again his brains contents and his hearts sighs wrapped up and presented in a confusing and welcome package.

About Devendra Banhart

Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela and Los Angeles, Devendra Banhart was always playing music and drawing. But it wasn't until his brief stay at the San Francisco Art Institute that the disciplines became his constant companions. With the encouragement of poet and SFAI professor Bill Berskon, Banhart began experimenting with all kinds of art. He also began recording songs around that same time, usually on shoddy, hand-me-down four-track machines. Brief, half-finished, or written in stream-of-consciousness form, the recordings weren't initially intended for release. But friends encouraged Banhart, and he sent out a few tentative demos. He also left SFAI in favor of busking and wandering, and his travels led him from the Bay Area to Paris and eventually back to L.A. By now he was performing regularly, but he hadn't recorded or released anything officially. That changed when Michael Gira (Swans) issued the first Banhart material on his Young God imprint in October 2002. Oh Me Oh My... was an immediate critical hit, and comparisons to legends of songwriting, eclecticism, and tragedy were frequent (Tim Buckley, Syd Barrett, Marc Bolan, et al.). The Black Babies EP arrived in 2003, followed by Banhart's first full-length, Rejoicing in the Hands, in April 2004. Young God released its companion, Niño Rojo, in September. Acclaim for both was nearly unanimous, and Banhart's audience continued to expand. He jumped to XL for September 2005's Cripple Crow, an ambitious set and his most sonically expansive album up to that point. Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon continued in that vein, recorded at Banhart's new home studio in Topanga Canyon. A jump to Warner Bros. brought a more straightforward set (relatively speaking), What Will We Be, in 2009. Released in 2013, Mala organized some of the overstuffed elements of Banhart's multifaceted muse into a more cohesive set of songs than on his previous few albums. He dialed back those tendencies even more for his sparser 2016 LP, Ape in Pink Marble. ~ Jason MacNeil & Johnny Loftus

  • ORIGIN
    Houston, TX
  • BORN
    May 30, 1981

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