Thursday, January 10, 2008

Last years best albums countdown

# 8. Devendra Banhart - Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (XL Recordings)

This album has almost everything, and everything sounds like it was made in the seventies. Still it sounds refreshingly new. In my humble opinion this is the best album that Devendra Banhart has released to date. The album is long, they always are with this guy, but still very concise. It continues the feeling from the Cripple Crow album but it follows a much more narrow path. Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon was recorded in a old house up in Topanga Canyon and it channels what I like to think of as the "Topanga-feeling". The "Topanga-feeling" is the feeling of being free, yet close to the big city of Los Angeles. Former residents of Topanga are musicians like Neil Young, Frank Zappa and the Doors. Charles Manson also lived there before the Tate-murders. And it's the feeling of all those people who sets the feeling of Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.

The album starts of with three slow mellow melodies, very inspired by latin music. You get that Getz & Gilberto summer feeling going and then the song "Seahorse" starts up. "Seahorse" is for me the best song on the album. The song are like a three-song-suite. It begins with this mellow ballad like melody then it flows over in this guitar-piano groove which is more than a little reminiscent of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five". Then for the final melodychange of the suite we get a Grand Funk Railroad groove with Banhart singing over it like a Jim Morrison ressurected. A fantastic song indeed. When it clocks in at a little over eight minutes you just wished it could continue a little longer.

Other great songs worthy of mention are "Shabop Shalom" which includes some gibberish. Not something you get on all your mainstream album releases. "Tonada Yanomaminista" is another song who uses the seventies groove from "Seahorse", it sounds like something that Santana could have made in his glory-years. Then you have the fantastic gospel "Saved" which wouldn't have been out of place on something out of Muscle Shoals. In between all this songs you get a lot of latin inspired folk music which nobody does better than Devendra Banhart. Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon is a truly great album that you can listen to time and again and still find new things to discover every listen.

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