What Will We Be
Setting aside the grand orchestrations of Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, Devendra Banhart's What Will We Be is everything its predecessor was not: straight-forward, cleanly produced, consistently laid-back (to nearly Jack Johnson proportions), and free of ambition. Banhart enlists the same band as last time (Noah Georgeson, Greg Rogove, Luckey Remington, and Rodrigo Amarante), but hired production whiz Paul Butler, whose records with A Band of Bees are some of the most striking productions of the 2000s. The double-tracked vocals give the album the same air as Banhart's early four-track experiments, but there's no haunted quality, just an occasional hippie-dippie aside in his delivery. Recorded in Northern California, What Will We Be often has the same slacker sensibilities and scent of ocean breeze that Jack Johnson has made his name with (read: funky white-bread basslines and closely miked drums played with plenty of whisk). Banhart's persona emerges intact despite the mainstream sound, however, and What Will We Be becomes a pleasantly fresh album to follow the ponderous, sprawling Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.