Singer/songwriter and visual artist Devendra Banhart emerged in the early 2000s and was soon considered an icon of the freak folk movement. In the years that followed, he expanded and experimented with his sound, perhaps hitting peak meandering with 2007's Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. Still touching on multiple genres, 2013's Mala offered a more cohesive set. With Ape in Pink Marble, Banhart continues to reel in diversions and delivers his most understated album in over a decade. The palette is playful but restrained, with acoustic guitar, synths, mallet percussion, and Mellotron among its tools.
Six years after forming the United Nations of Sound – a pseudo-group that lasted no more than a single record – Richard Ashcroft pushes himself back into the spotlight on These People, a 2016 album that finds the former Verve singer reuniting with Wil Malone, an orchestrator who worked on Urban Hymns and Northern Soul. Malone's presence suggests These People may achieve a certain symphonic heft, yet Ashcroft sidesteps the churning psychedelia and progressive majesty of the Verve's prime. In its place, the singer/songwriter taps into a certain insouciant sophistication, favoring insistent arena anthems and finely tailored Eurodisco.