Devendra Banhart Nino Rojo

Critics might laugh and balk at Devendra Banhart’s trippy-dippy earnestness but there’s something I find truly magical about blissfully plain-as-day honesty amidst a whole world of posturing artists, and Banhart has a soulful. Nino Rojo hails from the same sessions as this year’s Rejoicing in the Hands (they’re being released together on vinyl) and still manages to mark a progression from Rejoicing’s upfront niceness with its overall darker, more laid-back tone. Nino Rojo also makes wider use of adding further instrumental backing to Banhart’s mythos-laden earth-folk, occasionally breaking out into full band arrangements, as on the Lennon-ish "Be Kind” and the Stones-y closer, "Electric Heart.” Overall, Nino Rojo effectively leaves its empathetic listeners hooked and wondering which direction will take Banhart’s innocent fancy next — the blissful solo act he’s established, the assured band-leader he’s learning to become or the self-loving and sexed star that seems to be lurking just beneath the surface of his bubbling brilliance. Let’s hope he doesn’t end up like Marc Bolan. I’d much rather we had a more profound Donovan on our hands. (Young God)