Thursday, September 27, 2012

Natalia Lafourcade - Mujer Divina

Mujer Divina, Natalia Lafourcade
Sony Music, México
Rating: 80
by Carlos Reyes

Too often in music, attaining maturity equals compromising the musical search. This might never be the case for our generation's darling Natalia Lafourcade. In an interview earlier this year Lafourcade confessed feeling incredibly moved by Mexico’s bicentenario, where she played chanteuse as part of Alondra de la Parra’s Travieso Carmesí. The event led her to a renaissance of national composers from the past, falling in love particularly with Agustín Lara (“El Flaco de Oro”). The follow up to the majestic Hu Hu Hu is a duets tribute album to Lara, to his ever-peeling melodies and the poetry of his profound words.

For the first time in a long time (perhaps since Café Tacvba’s pre-drums era), Mexican indie is witnessing an appreciation for Mexico's music. And it’s happening at different levels: from the indie-gone-mainstream success of Carla Morrison to the cult-gone-classic feat of Juan Cirerol. These artists are reinstating the fact that it’s okay and beautiful to sound Mexican. This observation is of particular significance when considering Hu Hu Hu was the result of Lafourcade’s creative expatriation to Canada. Mujer Divina finds a Natalia Lafourcade that’s less transitional and more acquainted to a classicist artistic scope. She’s quieter than we usually like her to be, but refinement has its perks. Featuring a stellar lineup of accompanying men, this is a record that skips the innate charm of duets and carves for deep emotional exchange.

Mujer Divina starts at a high point, with the always-comforting voice of Adrián Dárgelos (Babasonicos) describing the haunting gaze of a divine woman. When Lafourcade’s voice enters the spectrum, she quickly resolves the biggest anxiety felt by the album’s gendered premise: Will Lafourcade play a passive/recipient role or will she be an active participant in the storytelling? From track one, she refuses to be the muse of Lara’s love songs, and not once does she bow submissive in front of these worldly celebrated men. Lara would be proud of her stance. Lafourcade and her respective companion approach every song with due respect, negotiating rhythmic pace and idiosyncrasies without hurting the album’s overall refined coherence.

Leading single “La Fugitiva” (featuring Kevin Johansen) is a slow-burning cut where tangents from Lara’s original composition are subtly revealed. While the departure might seem impersonal, there are historical margins to be followed. Lafourcade’s approach is considerate and, with the exception of “Aventurera” (featuring Dominican singer Alex Ferreira), she opts to step away from the mounting orchestrations that defined a lineage between Las 4 Estaciones del Amor and Hu Hu Hu. Other standout numbers include the flourishing “Limosna” (featuring Café Tacvba’s Meme), the whimsical “Farolito” (featuring Gilberto Gil), and the ethereal “Amor de mis amores” (featuring Devendra Banhart). To be totally honest, the idea of a tribute collaborative album never really excited our staff, but we should know better than to underestimate the pulling of our heartstrings at the touch of the eternally consoling Natalia Lafourcade.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Video: Mueran Humanos - "Culpable"


After dropping what was easily the darkest, goriest, and scariest of our favorite records last year (while also featuring the most commented on cover art since the creation of the blog), Argentine-via-Berlin husband-and-wife duo Mueran Humanos have recently dropped a video for their new track “Culpable” as part of the recent Culpable/Amuleto 7” released through mythical English label Southern Records. Shot in Berlin and directed by Txema Novelo, the young mexican director's latest production carries the same casually contemplative feel that has characterized his work: foregrounding band members in the thick of an unusually captivating setting. Where he had previously aestheticized folk-norteño as a romantic setting on the rooftops of Mexico City, punk as a cynical eye on cosplaying Comic-Con attendees, and post-punk as a purple-hued haunting woodland tableau, Mueran Humanos’ most charming song to date works as a sharply pleasant slice of throbbing electronic pop that’s carried onto the clear skies summer of Berlin’s Soviet War Memorial, a church tower, and Nico’s grave. Finding a groove that’s decidedly a lot more Chilean pop than German industrial, the Argentine duo are exploring some unexpected territories here. And, while the great Mueran Humanos LP occasionally showcased a remarkable knack for pop melody, “Culpable” is where they have finally removed their gorey motifs and utterly embraced their abilities at pure pop bliss. You can also check out the video for grinding B-side "Amuleto" here.

Gepe - "En La Naturaleza (4-3-2-1)"


If you’re part of the crowd that still feels abrupted by the “yos” in “Por La Ventana,” you might want to surrender the purist mindset once and for all. Gepe’s new single, “En La Naturaleza (4-3-2-1-0),” first single off forthcoming album GP, is a wild one (that countdown is not in vain). Daniel Riveros has a special talent for bending the melodic conservatism of folk music to craft wholesome pop grace. It’s an unorthodox form of distillation, but acknowledging nature’s fearsome hostility needed this much rhythmic abrasion. Gepe (with help from labelmate Pedropiedra and producer Cristian Heyne) flirts with military orchestration, Andino apparitions, and a reggaeton beat to penetrate into “la nueva conquista experimental.” Unlike anything in Animal Collective’s Centipede Hz, Gepe doesn’t just swamp you, he brings you back up swooning in joy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Los Románticos de Zacatecas - Ya lo dijo Rufis Taylor

Ya Lo Dijo Rufis Taylor, 
Los Románticos de Zacatecas
Independiente, México
Rating: 69
by Sam Rodgers 

Ya lo dijo Rufis Taylor charges out of the gates, heralded by gringo-accented pronunciation of the band's name and gunfire. Los Románticos' drummer, Toni, bashes away, and the simple, punk-like guitar chords of lead single "Si tú estás lejos" penetrate the mind's attention span for a memorable riff. Predictably, lead singer Manzanas enters when the drum rolls, and here begins a triplet of songs dedicated to that someone Manzanas is standing on a mountain, on a pier, outside the club declaring his love for, maybe with a novelty director's megaphone or funnelled newspaper. It's all about "tú" (presumably "ella"), and before you've memorised the lyrics of the first one, tracks two (second single "Es por ti") and three come crashing out of the speakers at the same frantic pace, like Manzanas has ripped off the last lyric sheet, scrunched it up, thrown it over his shoulder, and is composing the same thoughts again. Because each of these tracks all come under just three minutes, the effect is urgent and relatable (if you're not here–it's all for you–you feel the same way I do), if not a bit like a whirlwind. Wait? Am I up to track four already?

Interspersed between songs is generic nostalgia Mexicana (snippets from radio, TV, etc.), which gives the album a sense of being just "good ol' rock and roll." Whether or not it successfully heightens the melancholy that looking back (on a decade of culture, or lost love) entails is debatable–the choice to include these sound bites doesn't seem very focused–but, superficially, it breaks up what could be an overwhelming exercise in high hat 'n' strumming.

The most interesting moments of the record integrate these relics with the music during the middle of the album. The end of "No te tardes," with its cinematic flourishes and stomping drum outro, shake us out of the so-far-so-rock daze and make the next song, "Ya lo ves," instantly stand out. It's the first track to change the atmosphere of the album from a simplistic Help! to a more nuanced Rubber Soul. The melody of "Ya lo ves" is quite Beatles-esque, a more upbeat Tame Impala, and reflects well the melancholy and desperation Manzanas must be feeling for this evasive muchacha by track six. Even his voice channels the signature psychedelic drone of the Fab Four, and is evident again on the next track, "Me siento cansado."

However, the album does err on the "outstayed welcome" side of things. It's unfair to say it does this completely when tracks are no longer than four minutes and most are under three, but, with fourteen tracks, the album can sound repetitive. Even though the protagonist has lyrically been through the wringer and come out hopeful again by the end, the album is bookended by the least interesting sonic ideas, which the sound bites on their own can't salvage. At its best, Ya lo dijo Rufis Taylor is playful and somewhat innocent, tracks are straightforward, catchy and sometimes unexpected; it's a solid record to put on at your next summer house party (as depicted in the lead single's video). But at its worst, the straightforwardness can grate, you want to lower Manzanas' megaphone and tell him to get over it, or at least get empathetically depressed, just to change the tempo here and there.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

MP3: Los Macuanos - "☠ / ⚑ / ✞ (Sangre, Bandera, Cruz)"


After six nightmarish years, Felipe Calderon’s presidency is finally coming to an end. Still on course (until Enrique Peña Nieto takes over in December; we're doomed anyway), the president’s War on Drugs has developed into one of Mexico’s most brutal periods. Insecurity, paranoia, extreme violence, and thousands of deaths (over 70,000) have been the result of this bloodbath. Fortunately, unlike what was declared in Proceso’s article about “Generación Zoé,” there are artists who are aware and won’t hesitate denouncing their country’s deplorable situation through incisive manifestos. Tijuana’s conscience-awakening ruidosón (or should I say technosón?) prophets Los Macuanos deliver an iconic anthem for the end of this catastrophic era with "☠ / ⚑ / ✞ (Sangre, Bandera, Cruz)," an exorcising track that echoes and pays homage to all of these souls’ voices, victims of an unnecessary war governed by self interests.

Los Macuanos’ ghostly experiments have always been linked to Mexico’s deepest roots. Influences of classic authors like Juan Rulfo to contemporaries like Heriberto Yépez, sharp social critique, political awareness without being scared of defining a conscious posture...all of this fuels and nourishes the contending high art. With "☠ / ⚑ / ✞ (Sangre, Bandera, Cruz),” Los Macuanos have reached an even more elevated level of criticism that could be compared to Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece ¡Que Viva México!, it is that honest, inspiring, and true. "Sangre, bandera, cruz" is the mantra of a somber panorama colored in red, one that summarizes a whole population's suffering through daily exposure to corruption, oppression, bloodshed, and shameless social control through manipulated realities via television networks (yeah, mainly Televisa). "Pero a pesar de todo, México está de pie," Calderón claimed in a speech earlier in March. The song takes this quote as a naive announcement as you're losing yourself to its haunted scheme. Then in silence questions, "¿Está de pie?" I don't think we ever were. Los Macuanos, in a mourning, subtle way make it somehow clear, yet leave a small trace of light behind all this darkness for a country's wounded spirit. Download the single HERE.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Los Claveles - Mesetario

Mesetario, Los Claveles
Gramaciones Grabofónicas, Spain
Rating: 84
by Enrique Coyotzi

Let’s face it: Los Claveles can be, if not in the proper mood, a boring band to listen to, at least for the casual pop fan. The band's exciting initial tunes, even with all their lo-fi production à la Guided By Voices, past eras' rock & roll traces, and particular ironic sense of humor didn’t appear to fully convince all of our staff. Even though “Nacional 42” was our number one song last year, the self-titled 7”, while nostalgically ambitious, left some of us cold with the rest of the songs included. One year later, Los Claveles have broadened their canvas, refining it in their debut LP, Mesetario, which politely steps away from the rockers' first releases while polishing a clear-cut, more approachable sound, never losing the intimate qualities that have made them one of our classic revivalist darlings.

“Avanzamos hacia la libertad a pasos agigantados” declares anthemic opener “Estafas,” capturing in its first seconds a greater, more direct sensation than in any of the group’s previous compositions. Hell, it even features some handclaps and a steady bass line inevitably reminiscent of early ‘80s post-punk. The aforementioned quote resounds excellently in Los Claveles’ recent offerings. From Nacional 42 to Mesetario, their growth into full-liberty in a short lapse of time has been revealing. Recruiting Sergio Pérez (of Pegasvs/Thelemáticos fame), significantly enhanced the four-piece ensemble's regression in time into an up-to-date realm. It's fair to think The Strokes' Is This It, and, although we know it ain't quite there, Mesetario evokes similar back-to-basics zones, at the same time outlining a melodious capability and a consolidated status that should place them as one of Spain's most valuable talents.

Setting a splendid pace for the rest of the album, first single "Estafas" is visceral and claimant. The pleasurable collection of songs that is Mesetario should enchant longtime listeners, while unsurprisingly acquiring a new batch of followers. In each note played, Los Claveles exhibit how they've reached a comfortable balance nuanced by their ever clever lyrics ("La Pena Negra") and courageous arrangements ("Acertijo"). While the majority of these pieces are in the vein of rock-oriented, driving smashers, Los Claveles beautifully tackle dreamier, consoling works, like the breathtaking "Relicario" or swirling instrumental "La vida es un sueño." However, the best moments come when the band let their hair down. Title track, a commanding hymn that condemns nights to be used for sleeping ("¡Las noches no son para dormir!") makes me feel what Los Tucanes de Tijuana—although in a total different universe—ultimately didn't achieve in "Me gusta vivir de noche": the latent desire to stay awake until the sun comes up. "La Ruta Destroy" and "Cuidado con Sergifuente" are equally highlights in this sense, both arousing, daring, and, most importantly, lots of fun.

Gorgeously and invigoratingly reminding us the reasons we've been faithful to them in the first place, the greatly entertaining Mesetario sets Los Claveles as a band that hadn't exploited some of their richer attributes until now. But as proved in Mesetario, one of the year's best guitar albums, along with Protistas' Las Cruces, there's plenty of imagination and endurance to be awaited in these four creative brains. In the meantime, we can always come back and blast this delightful full-length as we are witnesses of how it evolves through time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Video: Dënver - "De Explosiones y Delitos"


Well, Dënver is back. And they're still awesome. Yawn. Or so you'd say if you were an ungrateful jackass. Two years after delivering the magnificent Música, Gramática, Gimnasia, the Chilean power duo is back in good form with stand-alone single "De Explosiones y Delitos." The guitars glide like they do in those "poppy" Sonic Youth songs, the vocals delightfully "ah" and "oh" without getting too twee, and the track is structured like a damn brick facade. It's less dancey than what we've heard before, but it's definitely more professional, which is more than you can ask for from such a young group. Indeed, if this is just a tease of a new LP, consider me titillated.

The video's quite lovely, too—pretty much as dreamy and romantic as desert roadtrips in an RV get. Like Breaking Bad without the whole meth thing. Although I think we can all agree that this video could totally use more Gus Fring.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Selma Oxor - User 69

User 69, Selma Oxor
Vale Vergas Discos, México
Rating: 79
by Enrique Coyotzi


In my review for Bam Bam’s 2011 masterpiece Futura Vía, I mentioned how Luxor’s vocal collaboration wasn’t that essential. Nevertheless, the truth is we’ve missed her. A lot. She’s made a proper comeback under the charge of Selma Oxor, the band she once shared along with Alexico and Ratas del Vaticano’s Violeta Hinojosa. We’ve lauded Selma Oxor’s return as one of this year’s best and, as evidenced in her fiery EP provocatively titled User 69, we weren’t wrong predicting it as something exhilarating.

Getting rid of the loud guitar noise abundant in the self-titled debut, spanning a poppier sound while preserving an electroclash basis, User 69 finds riot grrrl, scenic artist Leticia Beeton owning the moniker, revamping it into something deviantly appealing, her own. Comparisons to María Daniela may seem obvious, but honestly, quite tired. While their voice timbre might be alike, Beeton’s work isn’t candy floss electropop. This is filthy, dark, strenuous synth punk that persuades you to get carnal in each pumping, lecherous beat enveloping it.

Aided by Dr. Dude’s (Humanoid Mutations) galvanizing production, Luxor, making use of obscure, sinister aesthetics (think Dani Shivers), maniacally stimulates the listener in each of these five ebullient tracks. First single “Dotes de Cocina” showcases what Selma Oxor’s new direction is all about: luscious, soothing vocals that at times sound frenetic, combined with propulsive rhythms and stained yet jaunty guitar work both rousing and degenerate. Resembling a vivacious Mount Kimbie track, bass-heavy “En tu T.V.” speaks about the comfort found in television addiction under scary declarations (“La vida real está en la pantalla chica”). The robotic voices heard in “Aerobic Nation” bring to mind Ellen Allien’s Berlinette, confirming Beeton’s listening habits have changed, while the surf rock guitar line in “Jungle Juice,” guiding Luxor’s suggestive articulation (“O-o-o-o-o-o-oxor/Jui-jui-jui-jui-juice”), comes as the sexiest moment in the EP. Closer “Quiero Salir” still sounds a bit like Portishead’s “Machine Gun,” although it retains a phantasmagoric aura and nefarious outlook.

A fierce and rampant EP, the only thing missing here is the inclusion of outstanding hit “Lo Que Quiero.” It was a bit disappointing to learn Luxor opted to leave it out. Nonetheless, User 69 satiates after a long wait since last hearing from Selma Oxor, exposing a radical change in her music that resulted from going solo, taking a perceptible step into maturity, and encountering complacency and freedom of ideas by making her own fertile art.



Friday, September 7, 2012

Video: Aldo Benítez & Javiera Mena - "Efecto"


As we approach the final months of the year, stellar hits don't appear to stop emerging. This time around via Argentinian promise Aldo Benítez, featuring our favorite and number one Javiera Mena. Under the direction of visual producers Piel (responsible of two astounding Isla de los Estados clips), the video for the lovely “Efecto," showcasing a widescreen movie format, takes advantage of this presentation to exhibit both singers in an enchanting-to-the-eye realization. It almost feels like an extended naive movie sequence, that exalts both performer's attractive looks (take a peek at those inviting shots under the rain). "Efecto," first single off Benítez's second album to be edited in October, Tonelada, is the ideal song to get us pumped about this release. Mena’s collaboration is minimal, but fundamental. The artists’ voice mergence, when it ocurrs, is so gorgeous it’ll turn you into jelly. And, if this is the kind of deluxe pop we’ll taste in Benítez's upcoming record, we’re all ears.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ases Falsos - Juventud Americana

Juventud Americana, Ases Falsos
ARCA Discos, Chile
Rating: 93
by Carlos Reyes

And so it came true, Fother Muckers is now Ases Falsos. Same formation, bolder direction. Fother Muckers always sounded like Juan Gabriel and they borrow his consecrated image on the stellar album cover of Juventud Americana. The transition of Fother Muckers into Ases Falsos brings forward some of the Chilean band’s most illustrious bridges. While a certain infamous band disrespects the legacy of Juanga again and again, Ases Falsos embrace the most beloved songwriter/performer of the Americas through an original work bravely emerged from inspiration. But Juventud Americana is way beyond an appreciation album for the idol, it’s a work about América (the ONE continent), a climbing introspection on our continental idiosyncrasies, and an update to the “We are Sudamerican Rockers” maxim.

“No soy y nunca sere un artista nacional.” This is one of many memorable roars in Juventud Americana, but the most significant in the band’s shot at reinvention. They are not kidding around; they’ve arrived in full gear to the post-national spectrum. Like Teleradio Donoso did a few years ago in Bailar y Llorar, Ases Falsos articulate on the thin lines that attach and separate social and personal circuits. Juventud Americana isn’t a doorway to the renaissance of the Chilean band. Ases Falsos have crafted a roll-with-the-punches album that blooms in transitions—the end of conservatism and the rise of progressive ideals—specifically as faced by our increasingly nearer continental youth. And yet, there’s nothing technologically accommodated for a Generation X absorption. They’re still using rock instruments as mass-triggering vehicles for emotional discharge and thematic dispersion.

Thunderous opening track “Misterios del Perú” is that grandiose opening number every great album needs and deserves. But don’t confuse the grandness of the sound with posture. There is no trace of self-indulgence to be found here. Because whether it is Fother Muckers or Ases Falsos, no band better captures the comfort/discomfort of pedestrians or the bustle of the great (Latin) American capitals. Cristóbal Briceño’s unsettling vibrato (like that of Juan Gabriel or Jorge González) is the imagery of a decay that hurts us but also comforts us. The way “Salto Alto” and “La Flor del Jazmín” journey back and forth, from ballads to disco-lust numbers, says much about the band’s disposition to keep the beat on the pulse, even if merging into what would be considered melodically venal.

Even in all its continental drift, Juventud Americana is still amply aware of the outside. Or at least of the outsiders penetrating its nucleus. Outstanding single “Venir es Fácil,” about the odd migration of an African man into the American continent, is confronting but ultimately cheerful and inclusive. Meanwhile, Ases Falsos makes a strong case about a fantasized new global economy in “Europa.” It may seem like a step back from cosmopolitism (a progressive ideal), but when economy is tight, taking care of our own just seems like the right thing to do. Ases Falsos’ grounded themes work at a human capacity. No matter how vague Fother Muckers sounded on their suicidal note, their resuscitation is beyond thrilling. Truth is, Fother Muckers never crafted an album nearly as significant as Juventud Americana. Unlike any of their peers, Ases Falsos manage to sound more unapologetic than apocalyptic; they make songs that invite youth for coalition more than we have done in our past. A strong, long hug seems like the first step. Hugging Juan Gabriel = hugging América.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Helado Negro - Island Universe Story One

Island Universe Story One, Helado Negro
Asthmatic Kitty, USA
Rating: 78
by Marty Preciado

The interpretation of music into feelings is subjective. However, in very few instances will a musical piece exert extraordinary elements that will enchant the listener. Brooklyn-based Roberto Lange, better known as Helado Negro, accomplished this with Island Universe Story One, an eight-track EP of impetuous character and meticulous fusion.

As aforementioned, feelings are subject to internal reality. Yet, Helado Negro is able to convey his profound and arduous input into his EP with a result of enchanting songs, allowing one to enjoy and rejoice in every single second of musical balance, a balance that can be described as being trapped in the immense layers of haunting sounds, melodic voice, and synth loops. Perfect equilibrium in kraut electronica, synth pop, and delicate harmonious vocals would be an initial description. Beyond any doubt, a composition which is conducive of Helado Negro’s musical zenith.

A correlation of technicality with sentimental value, though perhaps considered a dichotomy, is achieved with this EP. Lange creates a fusion of musical variances with deeply felt songwriting topped with a conscientious elaboration, a production that is apparent in the attentive musical tailoring of every song. A more powerful attribute to Island Universe Story One is Roberto Lange’s hallmark essence: his voice.

Rarely does one find an introductory track to be a highlight, but "Mamember" is definitely a musical gem, a track hauntingly beautiful, hair-raising, and mesmerizing, evocative of nostalgia through atmospheric synth loops and exquisite drum kicks, all accompanied by Lange’s soothing voice. If the music is not enough, Lange’s introspective lyrics on loop throughout the song (“recuérdate dónde estás”), will definitely get you pondering. An eight-track EP consolidating music and feelings is a difficult task to tackle, much less master. But Roberto Lange has managed to compose a monumental EP filled with enchantment, an overall shivers-down-the-spine listening experience.

Helado Negro - Island Universe Story One - 01 Mamember (Long Largo) by asthmatickitty

Monday, September 3, 2012

Linda Mirada - Con Mi Tiempo Y El Progreso

Con Mi Tiempo Y El Progreso, Linda Mirada
Lovemonk, Spain
Rating: 86
by Blanca Méndez

Listening to Linda Mirada is like traveling back in time and hanging out with Fleetwood Mac and Mecano, which is enough of a selling point without saying that Con Mi Tiempo Y El Progreso is a beautifully executed pop album that doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. Though certainly more youthful than the other two, Con Mi Tiempo Y El Progreso would be perfectly comfortable in your record collection between Tango in the Night and Entre el cielo y el suelo. It’s like a time capsule of the late ‘80s, an anachronism that somehow makes sense in 2012, though there’s really nothing new about it.

The album wastes no time on introductions or small talk, immediately drawing the listener in with the charming ode to the beach that is “La Costa.” The airy, echoey vocals, like a siren’s call floating over ocean waves, are soothing and seductive, almost hypnotic. By the end of the song Linda Mirada has you in the palm of her hand. Then she shoves you right into full-on ‘80s mode with “Mientras La Música No Pare.” The videogamey, bordering on cheesy, percussion paired with the swelling saxophone makes no effort at subtlety, and the increasingly precise and pronounced enunciation and the sax trills at the end really drive home the point: Linda Mirada is not fucking around.

Still one of the best songs of the year, “Secundario” features a springy melody and spacey synths that make it feel distant in a really attractive way, as if the space between the song and the listener adds to the appeal. There’s also something comfortably, almost routinely dark about this album that is not entirely revealed in its first single. It’s in the way “Las Cosas Nunca Salen Como Las Planeas” seems resigned before it even begins or how “Lío En Río,” with its strategically monotonous guitar and bursts of something that sounds halfway between a shriek and a cackle, talks about how summer days are the longest in a way that wishes summer would never end and at the same time is already bored. In “Aire” there are so many cacophonous elements—eerie vocals, ominous percussion, spirited strings, playful bass, a nimble flute—that it shouldn’t make sense together. Yet, it is one of the album’s most captivating tracks.

Con Mi Tiempo Y El Progreso’s brilliance lies in its convictions. The commitment to a sound that to many will register as outdated and unfashionable is the kind of commitment it takes to rock a garish, older-than-you sweater that has been collecting dust at a thrift store. Whereas someone like Javiera Mena takes a fondness for the ‘80s and makes it into something new, for Linda Mirada there’s no pretense of updating a sound or putting a fresh spin on it. Con Mi Tiempo Y El Progreso is unabashedly ‘80s, unapologetically Tango in the Night-era Fleetwood Mac. And there’s a lot to admire in someone who sticks to her guns like that. It makes the album title particularly apt. El progreso is a larger sense of change over time, but mi tiempo is more of an individual measurement, one that’s not calibrated to any one clock or calendar but moves at the pace of whoever is keeping time. Linda Mirada’s tiempo is the ‘80s, which is why it would be a mistake to call this album nostalgic. You can’t long for an era if you’re still living in it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

León Larregui - Solstis

Solstis, León Larregui
EMI, México
Rating: 44
by Enrique Coyotzi

Leader and vocalist of Mexico’s most overrated band, Zoé, León Larregui surprised no one when he decided to take a shot at a solo career. He had expressed these wishes a couple of years ago and, after the absurd success of his group’s MTV Unplugged album, this longing naturally materialized into the Cuernavaquense’s debut full length, the disposable and forgettable Solstis.

Why has Larregui’s beginning as a solo artist come as no surprise, but rather as something logical? He recently explained in an interview with Rulo for Frente that making a solo album was “something vital for me, as an artist, to keep growing.” Fair enough. But, on the other hand, Larregui has also finally reached that point where his rock stardom forced him to succumb to the comfortable attraction of making a name of his own. Similar to major label rocks icons that took the same road, such as Paul Banks and Thom Yorke, the results in Solstis are nothing but underwhelming–even worse, rolling in cheesiness, flatness and frigidness disguised by supposed heartfelt emotions.

Assisted by Adanowsky’s (of course) identifiable safe and novice production, Solstis isn’t a terrible release, at least not musically. There’s '70s classic rock throw-outs, chanson française a-la Serge Gainsbourg numbers, plenty of Beatlisms, and pleasant-to-the-ear instrumentation. But what about the record’s core, which feels hollow, empty, desolate, overall replete of Zoéisms? Is there any emotional depth to be found in it? Well, there’s the standout “Brillas,” which displays a moving chorus (though sounding very Caravana-ish). Then there’s “Perdonar,” which partially emotes but basically makes you think Larregui had been listening to In Rainbows a little too much. Still, two okay tracks don't make a good album.

The artist, unfortunately, can't seem to step out of his comfort zone. Committed to cosmic references ("Aurora Boreal") and blatantly pretentious song titles ("Resistolux," "Resguardum Ether")–no doubt a personal signature–Larregui only manages to eke out commonplace works. First released promotional cuts, including lead single "Como Tú (Magic Music Box)," aren't that bothersome until you pay close attention. The corniness characterized in these pieces is a red flag for what's to come. And, please, let Elvis Costello or Morrissey do their thing without lazily emulating them.

Instead of opting for a pseudonym, Larregui has chosen to use his real name to present this off-putting assemblage of self-aware personal love songs. But Alex Anwandter he ain’t. While the Chilean pop genius crushed souls with his palpable heartache, Larregui presumes to having made an intimate record without giving us any kind of substantial background because, as revealed in the Frente interview, he believes music is just to be listened to. And I agree. Sort of. Yet, with such little information, uninspiring execution, and notable egocentrism, the structure behind Solstis ultimately reeks of self-importance–one that cares about León Larregui more than we ever could.