|Banhart, Devendra / Cripple Crow|
|Add Date:||2006-01-01|| ||Pull Date:||2006-03-05|| |
|Week Ending:||5 Mar||26 Feb||19 Feb||12 Feb||5 Feb||29 Jan||22 Jan||15 Jan|
|matthew stark rubin|
Devendra Banhart. Cripple Crow. XL Recordings, September 13, 2005.|
Reviewed by Matthew Stark Rubin, December 9, 2005
FCC clean EXCEPT track 8 (“shit”) [and if we have any reactionary conservatives in the house, you may want to watch out for track 21, where he sings about marrying little boys]
This is folk music. Some call it freak-folk, but to me it sounds more wistful than experimental. Most of the “experimentalism” consists of just appropriating different clichés (salsa, cabaret) for a track here and there, and those few songs sound a little forced to me. The rest of the record, however-especially in the second half- is just some really pretty, classic folk and folk-rock. The most traditional, delicate folk numbers are really phenomenal, especially the ones with string accompaniment. Still, the vocals are really what shine here- they are always high in the mix, rhythmically compelling, extremely confident and instantly recognizable. For someone singing all over the place, this guy’s pitch is incredible, and he manages to ooze personality throughout the entire album. I guess what makes this album so revolutionary is that, while playing in a style perfected thirty years ago, and without doing anything insanely different or new, Devendra Banhart manages to sound like himself. A masterpiece if you avoid the duds. P.S. astral weeks.
My picks: 1, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 18, 21
Track 1: nice typical pensive folk. Acoustic + cello = pleasant. Consistent throughout, basically one nice guitar figure/pattern and some good signing.
Track 2: lyrics in Spanish, and a correspondingly stereotypical groove (maracas, flute, etc.). still, it’s kinda cute and silly.
Track 3: starts with piano and acoustic guitar strumming. Drums enter and we get a slow folk-rocker. Lennon-esque, with lyrical allusions and vocal harmonies to boot. Later we are treated to some crooning and then a steady coda that slowly fades out into some piano noodling.
Track 4: Steady drum/bass/guitar hits on every beat, two chords, with some typical retro sixties lead guitar. here he sounds kinda like he’s trying to sing like jim morisson, so it’s appropriate that the lyrics are about his beard. Towards the end, it gets more psych-rock/bossanova out of the blue, and that groove is nice. On the whole I find this track pretty corny though.
Track 5: This one has a “world beat” vibe, some bongo type drumming with some minor key guitar noodling, and I think I hear sitar. I think it’s supposed to sound mystical. Same mid-tempo groove through the whole song.
Track 6: Singing in Spanish, with intermittent flamenco-style strumming, then figure-picking. Just voice and guitar for the first minute, then another orientalizing Latin groove with Santana-esque lead guitar in the background. Ends with more Spanish crooning/flamenco.
Track 7- Iron and Wine style fingerpicking, but a bit more bluesy, with very traditionally folk singing. Delicate. Various classy accoutrements (some slide, some ambient background vox).
Track 8- FCC WARNING (he says “shit” once) Fat funky bass grove with maracas and guitar vamping. GREAT cooler-than-thou singing with awesome talk/sing cadence.
Track 9- Cabaret piano and singing with some yelps and such. Nice faux-trumpet voice solo.
Track 10- starts with a little sing-song melody about the beatles. Then jumps into one of these salsa sections with Spanish singing.
Track 11- Melodramatic, dark finger-picking juxtaposed with nonsense-lyrical duet with a girl.
Track 12- Cat Stevens to the max instrumentals. Fragile, vibrato-infused singing with a totally infectious melody. Beautiful. There’s a reason the album title is taken from a lyric in this one.
Track 13- More evocative fingerpicking. Nice cello accompaniment. This one is in another language, but it doesn’t sounds lame. Very pretty. The singing ebbs and flows along with the guitar vamp, and it just WORKS. Towards the end, the vocals sound like they’re coming from the next room, and it’s pretty.
Track 14- Nice and pleasant acoustic picking and strumming made special by extremely catchy vocals. Some awesome background vocals join in, then a violin, and it feels like the coolest campfire of all time.
Track 15- Very folky storytelling. Obviously it’s about San Francisco.
Track 16- starts with talking so watch out. More traditional folk, then some tremolo guitar and drums come in and we’re dealing with some groovy, catchy folk rock. He’s singing about having Chinese children, which I don’t really get.
Track 17- Guitar picking sounds like Tenacious D. Instrumental acoustic guitar. Repetitive.
Track 18- Finger picking and cello playing off each other nicely. Very mellow.
Track 19- More Spanish singing with stereotypical fingerpicking and strumming on the nylon string axe. I’m sorry, I just can’t get into this, it sounds really childish to me. But the string solo (cello I think) is beautiful in its own right. Sounds like soundtrack music to a movie put out by Harvey Weinstein.
Track 20- mid-tempo piano folk rocker with pedal steel. Very catchy vocals, very pleasant ambience to the whole song.
Track 21- Almost Nashville-sounding fifties blues-rock ballad, could have been on Frank Black’s Honeycomb. Makes sense for a man with “so many women” that he decide to get rid of his front door so he “doesn’t have to hear them disappear.” One of those awesome life-is-hard-for-a-stud-like-me songs… and it works! But at the, at the end, it goes straight surf-rock, and all the sudden he’s singing about “so many little boys” he wants to marry? Now I’m confused.
Track 22- The album ends with- surprise!- a pensive, slow, and deliberative piano/vox ballad about flowers and the moon, and “all the lips on your lips” feeling good.