By Richard Lam
Devendra Banhart’s career has produced a steady, reliable selection of soft-yet-quirky folk music.
Each of his six albums– including his latest, What Will We Be– has garnered remarkably consistent and respectable acclaim, both a strength and a weakness for Banhart. There is little to be unhappy about with this newest release, but there is also very little that distinguishes it from his past work.
Banhart’s albums have stuck to a sparse guitar and wispy voice formula, sometimes diverting into slight musical experiments or different languages. “Anjelika” contains a catchy melody and brief foray into Spanish before returning to its main chorus. But Banhart seems unable to follow through with these musical diversions. “Rats” features the troubadour trying out psychedelic rock a la Vancouver-based Black Mountain. “Rats” is the highlight of the album simply because it’s unlike anything else he’s done, though it’s ultimately just another mid-point break before returning to his familiar, comfortable living room sound.
What Will We Be will satisfy, if not excite, existing fans, and is as good an entry-point as any of his other works. It is the same lo-fi acoustic freak-folk he is known for, though perhaps looser and more accessible than before. Then again, he was loose and accessible to begin with.