Devendra Banhart, Rodrigo Amarante | Park West | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Devendra Banhart, Rodrigo Amarante 18+ Early Warnings (Music) Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., May 31, 8 p.m. 2013
Price: $25
I’m pretty sure that in the mid-aughts I was a high-ranking member of the unofficial Devendra Banhart Haters Club, so nobody’s more surprised than I am that over the past five years I’ve enjoyed his newer music more and more. He’s seriously toned down his hippie affectations, overripe vocals, and distracting self-consciousness, all without changing who he is at heart. I still rolled my eyes a few times listening to his terrific new album, Mala (Nonesuch)—on “Für Hildegard Von Bingen” he imagines the abbess and composer in modern times, where she leaves religion to become a VJ, and on “Hatchet Wound” he returns to the overdone vibrato of his early days—but the lyrics are mostly relatable in their descriptions of the ups, downs, and stalemates of a romantic relationship, and the low-key, strummy arrangements are modest and appealing. Recorded on a vintage four-track in Banhart’s Los Angeles home with longtime sidekick Noah Georgeson, the songs pair simple, strolling guitars with muted drums (or restrained drum machine), with the occasional analog synth brightening the lo-fi sound. The melodies, carried by Banhart’s whispery, conversational voice, unsurprisingly provide the songs’ focal points; they’re rooted in pop and disco, but a dose of psychedelia prevents them from sounding too breezy. “Your Fine Petting Duck” (which features the flat but charming vocals of Banhart’s fiancee, photographer Ana Kras) mimics a squabble between ex-lovers, starting out like Mickey & Sylvia covering “Baby It’s You” and then kicking into a house groove with German-language singing; the album’s closer, “Taurobolium,” demonstrates just how well Banhart has learned to control his formerly off-the-rails falsetto. —Peter Margasak Rodrigo Amarante (Los Hermanos, Little Joy) opens.



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