Devendra Banhart
"What Will We Be"

(Warner Bros. Records 2009)Devendra Banhart - What Will We Be

No one could ever accuse Devendra Banhart of being insincere. A little eccentric and unpredictable yes, but certainly not disingenuous. And it's that sincerity in his musical projects that's captured attention. But over the past few years, with his last solo album (2007's "Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon") and his Megapuss side-project, listeners have been able to get comfortable with Banhart's Frank Zappa side. But with "What Will We Be," his seventh full-length album and first on a major label, Banhart comes straight from the heart in a way that feels different and more compelling.

Traditional love songs come by way of "Baby" while the solemn piano ballad "First Song For B" - with its chorus of "please destroy me" - when partnered with tracks like the slowly meandering "Chin Chin & Muck Muck" and "Maria Lionza" put depth into the middle of the album. Banhart also manages to squeeze in some good time tunes with ‘70s rock influences, such as "Rats," before closing out with the reggae and Island sounds of "Foolin'." The Spanish "Brindo" and "Meet Me At Lookout Point," with its cascading melody, are positively and literally dreamy.

Banhart might sound more focused and poignant but that's not to say the fun is missing on "What Will We Be." The fun is still there but it's more subtle. Instead "What Will We Be" shows that Banhart, who most categorize as a long-haired, long-bearded freak folker, can, musically, do more than might be expected. And, most importantly, he can still make it sound true to himself.

B+

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