Alterablesperanza, Mr. Racoon
Delhotel Records, México
by Pierre Lestruhaut
Even if our small community of online music lovers from Latin America has been hearing about Robert Polo for only a couple of years, the amount of material he has released under his different projects is far from negligible. A few years ago he was part of CF favorite En Ventura and their surprising melodic psych-pop album Los Gandharvas, while also taking part in projects like 60 Tigres with its danceable riffs and funky basslines, or the glitchy electropop of the aptly named duo Fuck Her or the Terrorists Win. His solo project, Mr. Racoon, gathered attention with its 2009 release Katy, yet another one released under Delhotel’s “music is free” premise, and a collection of emotionally charming songs that narrowed the gap between the intimacy of acoustic songwriting and the dreaminess of electropop swirling beats.
So after two years of releasing material for bands that would see him progressively moving away from the tenderness of Katy, his latest effort named Alterablesperanza, seems to be more about Polo wanting to expand his influences and diversify his song’s immediate references rather than attempting to develop an identifiable songwriting style. In initial tracks like “Felix U. Gómez," a song filled with Yeasayer-like ritualistic vocal melodies and tribal percussion, as well as “Acceso a la Playa Pública,” which excels greatly as your typical '90s alt-rock frenetic piece, for a moment you get under the impression that he’s one of those musicians capable of creating something great and unique out of such familiar grounds, and that he’s actually skillfull enough to embrace pop cues so effortlessly that he manages to blur the line between revisionist and self-defining songwriter.
Though that impression begins to slowly fade as the album progresses, and it feels more as if he’s wandering a bit aimlessly through his own amalgamation of disparate instrumentation, sounds, and references. He throws in some banjo balladry (“Blah!”), glitch pop experimentation (“Cancer de Pulmón”), a grinding dance-pop piece (“Nigromante”), and even an attempt at chamber-folk with lush orchestral arrangements (“Pino Suárez”). Most of it, though, with uneven success, not to mention the mild attempt at Piyama Party humor in “Te la mamaste” with its rhyme “Habiendo tantas viejas güey, y yo pensando que eras gay” (a line that is actually funny for about 5 seconds). It’s not that these genre exercises qualify as pastiche either, but you do get the feeling that this time Mr. Racoon tried to sound a little like everything that could fit in the spectrum of effortless post-millennial indie rock/pop. Like wanting to be a more accessible incarnation of both Sufjan Stevens, the sublime indie folk composer circa 2003 and Sufjan Stevens, the weirdo electronic adventurer of 2010, which is probably something not even Sufjan himself would succeed at very well.