What Will We Be is the sixth full length release from Devendra Banhart who exploded on the international music scene in 2002 quickly winning a coterie of devoted fans as well as an unusually hefty amount of critical kudos right from the outset. The new album was recorded in a sleepy Northern California town throughout the Spring of 2009 co-produced by Devendra and Paul Butler (from UK outfit Band Of Bees). Released October 27, it’s already gotten a ton of amazing press reaction, a TINY slice of which I include below. I do hope you’ll take time to give this a listen and consider covering.
Clearly, signing to a major label hasn’t made Devendra Banhart any more mainstream. And you can thank your lucky Buddhist prayer beads for that, because this psych-folk rambler finds our bearded, be-sandaled hero more energized than ever, snake-dancing his way through wild, Lizard King blues (“Rats”), goofing on glam-rock grandstanding (“16th & Valencia, Roxy Music”) and just letting his thoughts grow, as he puts it, like “hairs on a wild, wild boar.” Maybe he’s listening a little too closely to his spirit animal, but either way, the guy sure sounds inspired. Melissa Maerz/Entertainment Weekly 10/30
http://www.rollingstone.com/videos/player/30746287 – Kevin O’Donnell/Rollingstone.com 11/5
When Devendra Banhart released “Oh Me Oh My . . .” in 2002 on Young God Records, critics immediately crowned him the prince of the burgeoning New Weird America scene. It didn’t quite fit the Texan-cum-Venezuelan who’s also spent time in Topanga Canyon: Banhart’s not a ruler, he’s the people’s troubadour.
On his latest recording “What Will We Be,” 28-year-old Banhart steps back from his early, raw intensity with a creased collection of drifting tunes freshly produced by A Band of Bees’ Paul Butler.
He filches from a variety of genres — Brazilian Tropicalia, glam rock, lounge jazz, Zeppelin-like psychedelia — but it never sounds awkward. He loosens the stitches on each to fashion his own unique costume. “Take me as I am or might become,” Banhart sings in a slurry whisper on “Goin’ Back,” one of the most laid-back songs he’s ever recorded, with its finger-picked chords and beach-sandy drums.
Playing with the same ensemble that backed him on 2007’s “Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon,” Banhart’s first outing on a major label is not a concession to the big guns, but rather an attuned jog through their artistic obstacle course. — Margaret Wappler/Los Angeles Times 10/27
The 6th studio album by Devendra Banhart is the best he’s ever made. What Will We Be is also great enough in patchouli- scented spurts to suggest that the 28 year old singer-songwriter’s defining classic — his utopian-rock counterpart to historical footprints such as Neil Young’s Harvest, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter by the Incredible String Band and the open heart voodoo of Skip Spence’s Oar – is one more record and a little more focus away.
Proof comes early in “Baby,” a ball of dancing guitars and choral glaze that sounds like a woodland Beach Boys, and the warm overlapping logic of the psychedelic-hearth guitars in “Goin’ Back.” Banhart ‘s idea of a first-class trip takes in all of the right stops – heavy stoner rock, Brazilian Tropicalia, the British folk revival and Marc Bolan’s acoustic-hobbit and electric-tyke eras are a few more– and he writes a lot here about total immersion of the senses ‘We’re lost in the only thing/Truly worth getting lost in,” Banhart sings with sleeping relish in the opening calypso stroll, “Can’t Help But Smiling.”.Banhart’s other favorite lyric theme is constancy – the pursuit of extended states of love and grace – and when he trusts the straight-line adventure in a good melody, What Will We Be is original bliss. “16th & Valence, Roxy Music” is a sharp homage to the band in the title with a be-in buzz (“I know I look high/But I’m just free dancing”). And there is a three-track run late in this album that promises a lot of the next one — a suite of gently magnetic love songs that feels like one fine trance.
“Maria Lionza” is a bed of plucked guitars with rippling clarinet and deceptive mounting force in Banhart’s few lines of need. There is another shift in scene, a tropical-jazz interlude, but it actually works as an easy-rolling bridge to the bass-note pulse, baritone humming and Banhart’s Spanish language rapture in “Brindo.” That dissolves into “Meet Me at Lookout Point,” a simple gem with the Haight-Ashbury aura of Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 ballad “Comin Back to Me” but a fresh air, too, in the windblown guitars and vocal devotion. It is the sound of Banhart finding his own way forward through that past.David Fricke Rolling Stone 10/29/09
. Banhart’s albums offer ashram-appropriate guitar strums, trippy-hippie tone poetry and, if you’re lucky, at least one tune where he sings from the perspective of a rodent. What Will We Be has all that (check out “Rats”), plus a wee-hours piano-bar ballad and a driving soul-rock jam with more Tom Petty than Vashti Bunyan in it. A big improvement over 2007’s ho-hum Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, it’s also the most consistently satisfying full-length he’s made.
Fans of Banhart’s outrÃ© tendencies might be surprised that this is also his first major-label disc; after all, he doesn’t really seem like the compromising sort. Yet, working alongside producer Paul Butler (from the U.K.’s A Band of Bees), Banhart actually flourishes with a little direction: In the catchy campfire singalongs “Angelika” and “Goin’ Back to the Place,” his appealing eccentricity gains potency when it’s packed into more compact forms, while “Baby” and “16th & Valencia” shimmer with a newfound professionalism. ..Mikael Wood/Spin November
Devendra Banhart’s major-label debut, “What Will We Be,” was recorded with the same collaborators who graced his 2007 “Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.” This time the quintet holed up for two months in a Northern California cabin, and the resulting collection from the idiosyncratic singer-songwriter is intimate, experimental and ultimately accessible. The first single, “Baby,” is a breezy yet bass-heavy love song about “learning to let in all the laughter,” while “Chin Chin & Muck Muck” is something of a vanguard mini-review, changing acts between swinging jazz, cabaret torch and a twinkling chant. Banhart’s Venezuelan childhood peeks through with Spanish lyrics on “Angelika” and “Brindo,” and “Rats” is a full-fledged psychedelic-rock jam. Throughout the set, Banhart’s expressive vocals are the real pleasure point; the artist may be known for his self-supported aura of knowing peculiarity, but his voice carries a frankness that — save some well-applied reverb — is gratifyingly free of modern affectation. Evie Nagy/Billboard
Devendra Banhart’s major-label debut, “What Will We Be” (Warner Bros., A-), was recorded with the same collaborators who graced his 2007 “Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.” This time the quintet holed up for two months in a Northern California cabin, and the resulting collection from the idiosyncratic singer/songwriter is intimate, experimental and, ultimately, accessible.
The first single, “Baby,” is a breezy yet bass-heavy love song, while “Chin Chin & Muck Muck” is something of a vanguard mini-review, changing acts between swinging jazz, cabaret torch and a twinkling chant. Banhart’s Venezuelan childhood peeks through with Spanish lyrics on “Angelika” and “Brindo,” and “Rats” is a full-fledged psychedelic-rock jam.
Throughout the set, Banhart’s expressive vocals are the real pleasure point; the artist may be known for his self-supported aura of knowing peculiarity, but his voice carries a frankness that – save some well-applied reverb – is gratifyingly free of modern affectation.
Steve Klinge/Philadelphia Inquirier 10/27
In a world rife with deliberately disheveled indie rockers, Devendra Banhart truly evokes the cargo-cult culture of the late 60s: raised in Venezuela and Los Angeles, he wears his hair long and often plays his brand of freaky folk shirtless. What We Will Be is Barnahrt’s seventh record and his first for Warner Bros. The transition to a major label doesn’t seem to have corrupted or stifled his creativity, but it has augmented his sound: What We Will Be is a more elastic pastiche of psychedelia, Spanish swagger, jazz, and good old-fashioned folk than his earlier efforts. He goes from bonfire circle drums and airy melodies to sinister vocals and delirious guitar riffs with ease. If you’re looking for a dynamic set of tracks to listen to on the way to your local farmer’s market this Saturday, What We Will Be should do the trick. Bill Bradley/VanityFair.com 10/27/09
Freak-folk figurehead Devendra Banhart’s first album for a major label, “What Will We Be” comes after years of ponderous and offbeat solo LPs and, most recently, 2007’s band-backed “Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon,” as well as last year’s silly Megapuss side project. Here, Banhart’s joined again by the group from “Smokey,” and shares production credit with A Band of Bees frontman Paul Butler.
. It’s a solid Banhart album that diverges from his past in a few important ways (better production, a more studied sense of genre-hopping), while keeping the charming core (a sense of adventure, experimentalism mixed with melody). Megapuss actually figure in as a bigger influence than one might anticipate, especially on bro-jams like “Goin’ Back to the Place” (folk rock), “16th & Valencia/Roxy Music” (indie rock), “Rats” (Zeppelin), and “Foolin” (reggae). Though those are the tracks that will get the most notice for standing out, the cuts with Banhart’s more standard “naturalismo” and folk flavorings deserve their due for maturing without stagnating (particularly “The First Song for B” and its “Last” companion, along with the sonically bifurcated “Angelika”). Keith Dusenberry/Metromix.com 10/28
What is this now, the seventh album? Seems like a perfect number, a biblical number, for an artist to drift one way or the other: the humdrum towards the experimental, and the arguably experimental towards the humdrum. Meaning only that “freak-folk” Devendra has muzzled his weird syllables and upped his production values a bit. Nothing drastic, no mass-produced toothbrushes with Devendra’s face at the top. Which would be scary. In some sense this tidying-away of all the elements that scared glossy-mag critics off should only enable them to see the quality of his music more clearly – which can’t be a terrible thing.
In this clearness one can hear Banhart’s laid-back side in full, seventies swing, ornate with brushed cymbals, guiros and bossa nova. The acoustic riffs are still reliably warm as Cat Stevens or Mark Mothersbaugh in music director mode; “Angelika” begins so, then seems to cross-fade into Spanish and smoky jazz. This is headed up with the sunny electric funk of “Goin’ Back to the Place” (you know when Devendra uses an apostrophe in a gerund, the song’s goin’ to be hoppin’, etc.), all the way through to the Doorsy psych of “Rats”, which is spliced with Hendrix and Zappa and whatever other remnants of the vintage he can fit in there. As stated, the album is a lot more middle-of-the-road than fans might be used to, but Banhart runs up old, old paths that are beaten for a reason, and combines what he learns into something that is still very much his own. Like the final track, “Foolin'” (there again!) – it’s reggae. Banhart, the living ivy, doing reggae, with that slithering voice weaving into the beats making a bitching chimaera… it’s the joy of hearing him work any style that makes you want to get the man drunk and take him to a karaoke night.