Expectations seem to be a bigger demon for freak folk flag bearer Devendra Banhart than any other member of the weird beard tribe. Music critics alternately dub the dude the next great Neil Young-inspired songwriter, or a self-righteous mess of creative indecision. Now-defunct Harp magazine once memorably wrote, in apparent praise, that Banhart has "a deeper connection to the cosmos than most of us share."
That sort of lofty crap is exactly what gets in the way of just listening to Banhart. Take What Will We Be, his sixth studio release. It's fun. It's catchy. It's all over the map—musically, lyrically and in overall quality—but that's exactly what keeps it interesting. "16th & Valencia, Roxy Music" sounds like disco rock. "Angelika" goes for straight Cat Stevens-styled folk. On "Baby," Banhart light-heartedly sings of "bow-tied kangaroos," traveling by "choo choo train" and "giving 80 billion years of giggling a whole new world to live in."
Is What Will We Be groundbreaking or epic? Hardly. It's silly and airy and indecipherable at its best. When Banhart misses—"Rats" is some sort of schizophrenic Led Zeppelin rip-off—he fails miserably, but then skips along to whatever's next. For better or worse, that's exactly what makes him—and this album—worth a listen.