The first thing that strikes you about Devendra Banhart is his utterly unique and soft voice, which seems a mix of Nick Drake and Marc Bolan. "Roots (If the Sky Were a Stone)" is a perfect example of this, as Banhart uses his vocals and an acoustic guitar to get his brief yet often memorable points across. Originally recorded on shoddy and broken four-track recorders, the songs have a definitive roughness and audible hiss on nearly all of them, giving them a certain authenticity rarely found. Cars can be heard driving past in "The Charles C. Leary," but that performance is only one of the many highlights here. A number of the tracks are less than or just over one minute in length, often stream-of-conscious poetry put to music. The fragility heard in "Nice People" resembles Victoria Williams but evolves into a Syd Barrett song structure, speaking of "wide ass suits and lion tattoos." Barrett can be discerned throughout the record, especially during "Gentle Soul." "Cosmos and Demos" lends itself more toward Pink Floyd performing something from Echoes, perhaps the acoustic-oriented "Fearless." Lyrically the songs are quite odd and occasionally nonsensical, particularly "Michigan State." Here Banhart speaks of a friend who has his favorite teeth and ears. Perhaps comparisons could be drawn to Hawksley Workman and Hayden to a lesser extent, but Banhart makes both artists sound bland in comparison. "Lend Me Your Teeth" is the most mainstream-structured arrangement, with Banhart showing a bit more intensity. The standout track would have to be "Miss Cain," which has a pretty harmony vocal to it as Banhart picks his guitar in a rather intricate fashion. "Soon Is Good" is the most promising track, but the sound levels tend to fluctuate from verse to verse. An almost ethereal and angelic performance compensates for its shortcomings, though. A lot of the songs appear to be not fully realized, but perhaps that's the beauty of them. When tracks like "Pumpkin Seeds" are entirely flushed out, it's pure magic as the acoustic folk angle is played out to near perfection. "Legless Love" has a handclap tempo to it that resembles a flamenco style as Banhart describes burying songs in snails. Throughout the record, Banhart is never guilty of being artistic just for the sake of being artistic. Each track rings true and can't be deemed contrived. "Donal and Colter" is the most up-tempo song, but even then it's still mid-tempo at best. ~ Jason MacNeil, Rovi
The full title of this album is Oh Me Oh My the Way the Day Goes By the Sun Is Setting Dogs Are Dreaming Lovesongs of the Christmas Spirit
. This sums up singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart reasonably well, demonstrating as it does an engagingly whimsical imagination, an evocative turn of phrase and a vast capacity to irritate. There are moments on Oh Me Oh My
which will have the listener drawing appreciative comparisons with Syd Barret and Elliot Smith, and there are hours during which you'll want to swat Banhart with his own guitar.
What Banhart really needs is a good editor. When he's good, as on the sombre and pretty "Animals" and "Cosmos and Demos", he radiates a downbeat charm that suits his lo-fi approach to recording perfectly. When he's bad, as on the laboured, wilfully annoying avant-garde nonsense--unhappily reminiscent of Vic Chestnutt at his least agreeable--that constitutes too much of the rest of the album, he's unlistenable. On Oh Me Oh My
, the balance is just about on the credit side of the ledger. --Andrew Mueller