Demasiado Viejo Para Morir Joven,
by Jean-Stephane Beriot
Financial advisers and personal motivators promised 2011 would be a year of collective healing, but they didn’t give the specifics on how we would actually get there. Whether it is the year’s pop hit (Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”), or this summer’s indie anthem (Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”), 2011 is turning into one of the most pessimistic years in recent memory. In Latin America, the response is twice as cynical. Please, by all means, blame telenovelas for our inductive, dramatic instincts. For pop analysts, differentiating artists with a real sense for gloomy songcraft from the affected walkers is becoming a thorny assignment.
Venezuelan newcomer Juan Pablo Oczkowski has a real cultivation of intimate and austere landscapes. If you’re up for some down-to-the-bone pieces with a serious affinity for existentialism, Jan Pawel is the real deal. His debut six-track EP, Demasiado Viejo Para Morir Joven, reveals the starting mark of an artist that’s melodically subversive and thematically disquiet. Late last year, Pawel astounded us with the album’s first single “Hoy Los Muertos Estan De Pie,” described gorgeously by Blanca Méndez as “the triumphant march that announces rebirth.” From the very first cunning punches of the song, you know this is building up to something greater than the common pop song. In its first half, Pawel’s profound vocals seem like dynamite ready to detonate, but in the middle of the song, he lets go, and just as he sings “today the dead stand,” you’re embellished into a climactic religious experience.
Jan Pawel has a legit coordination with emotional resonance, and it’s his understanding of this harmony that truly makes this album a sharp breakthrough. Vocally, Pawel is like the encounter of The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt with Sr. Chinarro, but melodically (and considering his Polish background), I’m guessing he grew up listening to plenty of music from “the old world.” Jan Pawel embraces his individual condition as a singer-songwriter, but as shown in album standout, “Mi Pudor,” he is thoughtful of his surroundings. In this particular piece, he balances rustic romantics with washes of electronic boldness. Also impressive are his collaborations with compatriots Ulises Hadjis and Algodón Egipcio, who are a bit modest in their contributions, but engaging as ever. Demasiado Viejo Para Morir Joven (with its beautiful Breatheless-reminiscient artwork) is remotely an unassuming folk record and a sonic footprint from an artist already outshining expectations.