Devendra Banhart has given fans three years of anticipation for new music since 2013's well-received Mala, but his return this week with Ape in Pink Marble blends hushed, lo-fi tracks with looser, lyrically outlandish numbers to make his return to the studio an exciting one for listeners with a wide range of expectations. He also stuck with collaborators Noah Georgeson and Josiah Steinbrick once again, lending a certain level of familiarity to the release from the very beginning.
"Middle Names" was the first taste fans received of Ape In Pink Marble when the album was announced this summer, and you'd be forgiven for letting yourself be lulled into a hazy, sleepy state of consciousness by the gentle strum of its opening notes. Banhart's voice has a slight echo as windy ambients craft a peaceful landscape for the listener. It's a pleasant, ambling track that showcases Banhart in a more subdued light than you might find on other tracks on the record, and it's a reminder that the experimental folkie doesn't need frills or heavy production to make an impression. The song clocks in at more than three minutes, but somehow the end still feels abrupt — like you've been sung into a hazy oblivion you're not quite ready to leave.
"My love belongs to no one," he sings mid-song, and by the tone of the music, it's difficult to tell if that sentiment is bred of disappointment or quiet triumph. Does it matter? "Middle Names" views multiple phases of love with the same level of reverence, making it a moving soundtrack regardless of the listener's state of mind.