La Bala, Ana Tijoux
Nacional Records, Chile
by Carlos Reyes
I didn’t care much about the star-making appearance of “1977” on last year’s infamous summer playlist by Thom Yorke, but when that song popped up on an episode of what’s arguably the best TV series of all time (Breaking Bad), I confess I got territorial at the grace of music supervisor Thomas Golubic. Which comes to show that songs do evolve in the course of different narratives. The cosmopolitanism of Ana Tijoux is endearing and truthful, inclusive of varied infrastructures, as well as deep personal venture. Tijoux’s life story knows about exile and landing, about expression and repression - qualities that have found meaning and purpose in her folk-tinged urban artillery that’s, indeed, addressing global unrest in rhyme.
“Soy el ultimo eslabón de la pirámide,” sighs the French-Chilean musician in the album's defining number, "Desclasificado." Ana Tijoux is a lot of things, amongst them: an exceptional rapper, a troubadour (with a killer front-to-back flow), and an immaculate listener. On her third album, La Bala, Tijoux has bolded the melodic response of her delivery, arriving at what’s easily her best record to date. When in the album’s single “Shock” Tijoux sings about the rotting of a golden throne, her mind shields in a collective, marching conviction - the rhymes trail her mind through successive hard punches in the pursuit of corrupt decomposition. This is Tijoux at her best, in full harmony with the times and owning the medium through a commendable dexterity.
Although a career-high, La Bala still suffers from what ultimately prevented its predecessors from becoming great records. It’s missing the beats. She has yet to find the producers that will provide the sonic grassland in which a big portion of her mantra will ultimately flourish. Nothing goes wrong when she’s rapping/singing, but production-wise, her songs are bruised by run-of-the-mill orchestrations that would only work in a pre-industrialized environment. Yes, it’s not too hard to make a conversation between La Bala and an agricultural economy, but the multi-dimensions of her topics and rhymes speak less about a revivalist and more of an artist who is looking forward. But, while that production plot hole is certainly there, Tijoux’s arsenal keeps the flow running with her outspoken, powerful performance. La Bala is Ana Tijoux's shot at breaking bad, and she proves to be more than capable of wearing the ribbon of an outlaw hero.