[ALBUM REVIEW] Devendra Banhart: Mala
[Released March 2013]
Folk king Devendra Banhart is back with another eclectic collection of musical expeditions with his new album, Mala.
Recorded in his old home studio in LA with long-time friend and band member Noah Georgeson, under New York label Nonesuch Records.
It definitely sounds like a home-studio recorded album, some tracks are tinny like you are listening to them through an old AM radio or on a record player. This un-polished style simply gives the album more character and suits his style, being very reminiscent of earlier albums such as ‘Oh Me Oh My’ or ‘Rejoicing in the Hands‘.
What I’ve always loved about about Banhart’s music is that you can hear him and the band were having a good time recording it. You can hear it in the music, tell by the way the albums are far less planned and thought-out or rigid. Everything sort of flows together organically, all these thoughts and feelings express themselves through the medium of music and it comes completely naturally.
He is a musician who doesn’t take himself too seriously, he just does what he enjoys and keeps doing it. And he does it very well.
Mala starts off with a slow and soulful taunt at us to get up and “get on the dance floor” in ‘Golden Girls’, more of an intro to the album than a song in itself. ‘Daniel’ sounds like it could have been recorded in a back yard in a hammock, clinking ice in glasses in the sunshine, contemplating the strangeness of love.
Banhart is always playful with his music, either musically or lyrically (and especially on stage). Lines such as “if we ever make sweet love again, I’m sure it will be quite disgusting” are chanted in such a nonchalant way you wonder momentarily at the humour or seriousness in them. ‘Your Fine Petting Duck’ almost sounds like it belongs on the Juno soundtrack, with Banhart being joined by his fiancé Ana Kraš for some child-like sing-a-longs. Then towards the end it takes on a french-electronica band feel, as if they just decided half-way through recording to pull out a small toy synth piano and dance around the room. This song is not the only influence Serbian-born Kraš has had on the album, despite Banhart denying any of the songs are romantic love-songs about her (he in fact excluded a track off the album because it was just that), the name ‘Mala’ means something similar to ‘sweetie pie’, used colloquially in Eastern Europe.
He may be engaged, settling down in New York, and cut off his hair, but Banhart is still a child at heart. It’s his kind of child-like nonsensical ramblings and odd musical transitions that make this album was just as much fun to listen to as i imagine it was to create.
Mala is available now to purchase online at www.devendrabanhart.com
- Devendra Banhart: Mala (Nonesuch) (tucsonweekly.com)
- Devendra Banhart – ‘Mala’ (ilyaross.wordpress.com)