Niño Rojo

Not everyone can relate to what you and I appreciate, intones whinnying singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart on Niño Rojo. That line speaks volumes about Banhart, who, caustic, weird, absurd and poetic, challenges traditional musical notions. On this strikingly beautiful work, where he sounds like Donovan on LSD (well, on more LSD), Banhart weaves dreamy apparitions with his catchy folk guitar — sometimes even dabbling in Spanish-style picking — adding strange rhymes here and there. He can go from cryptic, minimalist lyricist to astute wordsmith ("My love is a so-long song gone forever more") in no time. And even if you get the feeling that DB's seemingly unselfconscious naturalist sounds (coughs, giggles, mutterings) are in fact calculated, it doesn't matter. They impart a humanness to the album, something rarely heard on today's polished recordings, and you find yourself straining to hear more of them.

x