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Banhart gives ‘Mala’ romantic, exciting energy

Posted on March 13, 2013 | by Patrick Jaojoco

Courtesy of Nonesuch Records

 

Psychedelic folk darling Devendra Banhart’s new album, “Mala,” is a relaxing and lovely set of tunes to start off spring. The album’s title comes from a Serbian pet name for a lover, the inspiration of which is readily apparent throughout the album. In his new album, Banhart explores themes of love and life in a surprisingly broad range of styles, all while retaining his gentle folk vibes.

The album begins with “Daniel,” a mellow waltz that easily lends itself to a dreamy Sunday morning. Over a humming chorus and ambling guitar melody, Banhart croons, “My love’s got a way / of fading away.” The song moves slowly over two chords and fits nicely into Banhart’s existing oeuvre, yet it refines his sound to a precise and minimalistic point.

“Mi Negrita” continues with a similarly structured sweetness, albeit in Spanish. The Venezuelan songwriter has mastered the Spanish love song, adding some ’60s synth effects to the flamenco-inspired guitars.

Banhart’s experimentation is epitomized in “Your Fine Petting Duck,” a duet with his fiancé, Serbian photographer Ana Kras. The song begins like “Daniel,” with Kras’ slightly off-key vocals suitably fitting the deep dream state that is “Mala.” The charming melodies and ’50s pop-chord changes add to the overall dulcetness of the song.

What is truly unexpected, though, is after a few verses and choruses, the song ends pensively only to return with bumbling house synths and a heavily produced funk-disco beat backing Banhart’s vocals sung in German. The change is entirely jarring yet surprisingly decent, and one must simply accept it as a Banhart quirk.

The folk-turned-disco pop song is an experimental peak from which Banhart returns to his well rehearsed dream-folk, but well rehearsed is exactly what Banhart means to stray from with “Mala.” The weird and unexpected bits of funk and disco strewn about make the otherwise mellow collection of tracks compelling, exciting and fun — all qualities that define the musician himself.

Patrick Jaojoco is a staff writer. Email him at music@nyunews.com.

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Tatiana Baez

Assistant Managing Editor | A CAS junior, Tatiana is studying journalism, environmental science and politics. She’s a bomb editor, as well as the staff’s main source of entertainment because she sings along to every song after 12 a.m. She also writes about culture, science, technology and sex, and her work has been featured in VICE, Motherboard, Elite Daily, amNewYork and others. She enjoys eating Thai food, reading fiction and binge-watching Netflix.

And in case you were wondering how great she really is — “I just can’t get enough of Tatiana” is a direct quote from her EIC at WSN only moments ago.

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Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

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Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

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