Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing In The Hands Of The Golden Empress - Review
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critics' view

Devendra Banhart is still new to the world, which finds most people comparing him to a surplus of other musicians. However, Banhart has quickly proven that, contrary to comparisons, he possesses his very own unique style that easily sets him apart from any singer/songwriter on the planet (past or present). His voice is so distinguishable that he will find himself in a similar league with some of music's all-time great distinctive voices.

His ability to create charming images of a surreal world with his abstract lyrics, abnormal time signatures, and inimitable vocals is like no other current artist today. On his previous albums, this was heard through his ghostly recordings on four-track recorders and answering machine messages. These were songs never meant for public consumption until his friends convinced him that it'd be a good idea to let them loose. So, Michael Gira (Swans and Angels of Light) took control of these recordings and released them "as is" on his self-managed Young God label. Accolades have been strewn about Banhart's feet since.

One of the principal qualities that made these early recordings of Banhart's so unique is how they effortlessly sounded like they came from another era. If you didn't know they were recorded within the last five years, you'd swear they were the lost tapes of Robert Johnson's next-door neighbor. But with the release of Rejoicing in the Hands, Banhart entered an official studio to record fifty-some songs, creating a cleaner sound than on the lo-fi recordings of before. While some of the new songs appear on this album, the rest will make it on a separate album or EP to be released in the next year.

Needless to say, Banhart is a prolific songwriter. He's also very dedicated to making his art as perfect as possible, regardless of how bizarre it may appear. During the song "Todo los Dolores" he makes a mistake with the Spanish lyrics, but quickly recovers and shows that his work is very serious. Once he regains composure and begins his "1-2-3-4" intro, it's time for business again. Banhart's lyrics are not only on par with what he has already accomplished, but music schools around the world should study his guitar work on this folk-rock masterpiece.

With the addition of studio effects, Devendra has been able to add different elements to his songs. Consequently, Rejoicing in the Hands has a more current vibe than Oh Me Oh My and Black Babies, but the charm and unique qualities are still very much in tact. If anything, it has allowed his music to become more greatly appreciated by the casual listener. "Insect Eyes," which is also the best song of Banhart's catalog, has the addition of bass, and "Autumn's Child" contains piano. Both of these instruments are exclusive to this album so far, adding substantial depth to the songs.

Besides being one of the most interesting artists to come out of the singer/songwriter genre in recent memory, Devendra Banhart is proving that the self-reliant style of the folk artist is something that is sadly being overlooked. If anyone can single-handedly bring this back to the forefront, it will be him. He's already every bit as important as Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, Jackson C. Frank, or any of the other artists who have influenced his art. Only his music speaks more clearly to this generation.

The idea that he can transcend his influences makes Devendra Banhart well worth your time and attention. And if you've appreciated any of his work thus far, you'll be extremely happy with what Rejoicing in the Hands has to offer. Perhaps only time will tell, but it could very well turn out to be one of the great timeless folk albums. And anyone who can sit down in such a short period of time and write this many unique songs has to have something abnormally genius working inside.

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