Until 8am this morning that I didn’t even know that a new Devendra Banhart was about to drop (on 12th March).

The excellent NPR first listen allows a sneak preview. It’s called Mala and is released on Nonesuch Records

I decided to try an experiment. I made a point of not reading any pre-publicity and listened to the whole album from start to finish without even checking what the tracks were called – the titles are the only words I added later. it’s not a proper review – just a series of impressions.
T1 Golden Girls – First line “You believe in visions and prayers”, a recurring message to “Get on the dance floor” is ironic as this is no dance tune.

T2 Daniel – Is this a break up album? Poignant memories – “Waiting to see Suede play”. These are short tracks.

T3 Fue Hildegard von Bingen – Subdued unquirky – “she’s leaving” understated – soulful 80s synth pop –  Darryl Hall & John Oates, anybody?

T4 Never Seen Such Good Things – still no jokes – is this a sign of a new maturity or disillusionment, or both. This whole album sounds like it could be a grower. Can’t really pick out lyrics and impressions may change when I find out what he’s singing. Shaping up to be a non disco, disco album. A record to put on when the party’s over.

T5 Mi Negrita – The obligatory Spanish track – something about ‘speranza’ which I know means hope. DB sounds like a night club crooner on this one.

T6 / T7 – Your Fine Petting Duck / The Ballad of Keenan Milton The reggae moment – “giving all your loving” – out of tune young singers. DB’s voice really does sound different on this record – has he been taking lessons? Could have been more cheery and morphs into disco rhythms – I like the tacky manufactured beats here. If you heard this on the radio, you’d never guess who the artist was.

T8 A Gain –  an instrumental – chilled acoustic – lovely melody – would like to hear more like this.

T9 Won’t You Come Over – “Mama’s gonna buy me a Dvd /new hair gel” – half jokey words but sad as hell.

T10 Cristobal Risquez – more like the old carefree Devendra here – more tacky disco and reggae style rhythms “Won’t you come over and love me”. This will be a live favourite.

T11 Hatchet Wound – still more cheap synth-pop. Stylish bubblegum pop.

T12 Mala Bass intro – New Order-esque and DB does his wavering Marc Bolan imitation; an ode to a “top of a shelf lady”. Frivolous and throwaway, but in a nice way.

T13 Won’t You Come Home Tender  – hesitant intro – lullaby mood – a fragment  – slow and graceful – Banhart seems determined to show diverse sides to his character on this album – fun and flippant one minute, thoughtful and mellow the next.

T14 Taurobolium – finger clicks “I can’t keep myself from people” repeated – manic falsetto “so much perversion you can’t see ……so much desire”. Strange choice of closing track.

General impression is that this is Devendra’s most introverted record yet. The synthesised beats hint at something more light-hearted but this never properly materialises. He sounds like a man willing himself to overcome some personal traumas or maybe he’s just growing up.

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