While there's a lot to be said for preserving an artist's original sound, after four releases to his name, one might say that it's about time Devendra Banhart has decided to try on a full studio sound for size. Perhaps taking heart from the fact that a similar step managed to work wonders for nu-folk colleague Joanna Newsom, Noah Georgeson, the man who oversaw the recording of The Milk Eyed Mender, has been brought on board not only as a producer, but as a band member to boot. Though he may not be employing orchestras and brass sections just yet, with Cripple Crow, Banhart finally moves on from the lo-fi, tape hiss feel that his music has maintained since his days recording on answering machines and sleeping on couches...but that's not to say he's lost any of that Bohemian edge. If anything, with a clearer sound, a set of discernable production values, and a band of friends in tow, all the eclectic elements that comprise Banhart's unconventional world shine through more apparent than ever.
However, apart from the slightest hint at that richer, broadened sound, the delectable "Now That I Know" opens the album as if to re-assure all that nothing will be lost in the forthcoming transition. That same presence of a mysterious, hushed intimacy remains intact, and when a cello begins to smoothly echo the lines of his humming ever so slightly, it's not only the Devendra Banhart we've come to know and love, but it's him at his best. Tellingly, rather than ride that dynamic for the length of the album, the next three songs are considerably diverse: "Pensando Enti" is a light, breathy ballad sung in Spanish, the tinkling piano and soothing harmonies of "Heard Somebody Say" make it a soft yet pensive anti-war protest that could have easily been recorded four decades ago, and the electric "Long Haired Child," which shifts curiously from a Clash-like beat to a doo-wop reverie, is an altogether funky tune about being so cold during the winter that you resolve to make sure your children have healthy, flowing locks of hair.