Russian Red - Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura, Russian Red
Sony Music, Spain
Rating: 76
by Carlos Reyes

Lourdes Hernández is Spain’s most refined daughter; a radiant but quietly profound cantautora of the rarest pop commodity. Her 2008 debut I Love Your Glasses projected her silhouette, a national revelation with enough sparkle for cosmopolitan predisposition. Russian Red is also the aftermath of cloying theatrics, unbridled perceptions, and thawed pictorial postcards. It’s this combination of attributes in Hernández’s persona and Russian Red’s melodramatic wrinkles that make her music so divisive (even within our club). Under the production scope of Tony Doogan (Belle and Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub, Mogwai), Russian Red’s sophomore album accentuates her satiated pedigree and brings her incandescent imperfections afloat. Modulated with artistry rather than personal choices, Fuerteaventura survives its florid mimicry for what it does and what it doesn’t do. On one side, we get a record that doesn’t lack an ounce of vanity and yet is able to swim within its melodic proportions. On the other, we have an artist with a palpable penchant towards a Vogue-esque splendor that’s simply too sticky-sweet to fulfill.

Nomadic chords introduce the opening track “Everyday Everynight” which quickly sets the tone of the album and depicts the chanteuse as the survivor of a broken heart. The midtempo balladry approach is meticulous and elegantly scaled at the service of Hernández’s well-sheltered vocals. If you don’t have the gift of writing songs in your own language, you can always pay your debt in your titles (right Bigott?). “Fuerteventura” is as bouncy as the premise of its title, irresistible in every one of its outbreaks, and, yes, utterly gorgeous. First single “I Hate You But I Love You” is a clench-chest piece in which the artist’s voice rises against the backdrop of a looming choir. More than a page in her diary, this is the centerpiece of an album predominated by an absent lover theme.

So, when does this record go from transcendentally pretty to claustrophobically intimate? Right in the middle of it when Russian Red decides to play roles for narrative inquisition that includes an army wife (“Braver Soldier”) and sleeping beauty (“Nick Drake”). It is at these moments that Fuerteventura prolongs its arcane passion for something else. This is not my music critic anxiety speaking on behalf of the artist’s credibility; it’s the record’s structural cavity that needs further craft. Like Adele’s 21, Fuerteventura is mesmerizing at times and inattentive of its fillers. But the Spanish singer shakes off most of her flaws whenever she allows herself to be a big girl, a mistress, and an uncompromised sweetheart. In the end, the elaborated textile and framework of Fuerteventura turns out to be a double-edged sword; it’s capricious but also shows she’s not ready to make nice.