Album Review: Devendra Banhart - Mala

5 March 2013 | 8:31 am | Jessie Hunt

Mala is further confirmation – as if anyone needed any – of the fact that Banhart is truly an artist.

Mala is the latest offering from new weird America's most enigmatic producer, Devendra Banhart. The work is replete with moods – from the melancholic nostalgia of the album's lead single, Never Seen Such Good Things, to the dark, delicate misery of Fur Hildegard von Bingen. Whilst drawing on many and varied styles and languages, Banhart manages to make this disparate album run seamlessly, like pieces of a puzzle.

The album's opening track, Golden Girls, is a dark articulate piece. It showcases the full range and potential of Banhart's vocals; he is so smooth, so mellifluous, so difficult to resist, that it is impossible not to fall for the tragedy of the track. It seems amazing that Banhart is capable of creating tracks that are so completely different – from the reckless freak folk of his 2007 single, Lover, to this restrained, refined piece.

Never Seen Such Good Things contains all the morose lyricism of a sad indie song – “Never seen such good things go so wrong/Everywhere I go they're playing our song”. However, the sheer complexity of the track's musicality is a welcome break from the kind of formulaic sad indie love ballads that one is accustomed to hearing. From the gorgeous warmth of the track's bass to the delicate electric guitar lines, the track breathes new, experimental life into a familiar format.

Mala is further confirmation – as if anyone needed any – of the fact that Banhart is truly an artist; he can combine elements that are so disparate, so completely different and, somehow, create something well worth listening to.

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