que en realidad
Summer, the heat, the sand, moments that get burnt into your memory. That’s the essence of music to me. Camilo Séptimo’s Navegantes.
This came out in 2019 but I feel the need to go back and wallow in those moments because I don’t know they are coming back any time soon.
Navegantes… navigating through love, pain, life – which is what the lyrics are mostly about. But they are full of feeling, so very evocative as only (mexican) spanish can be in its sounds. They have such a rich taste when you sing along.
The music is exquisite. 80s textures mixed with synthwave vibes (which, thinking about it, actually might come from a very similar place!), smooth production and high fidelity recording. Great musicianship, the lines of guitarist Erik Vazquez are oh so tastefully understated yet filling a lot of space. The writing is very consistent and, compared to previous outings, the band has managed to dial down the latino sugar in the melodies to a level of more universal appeal.
My go-to soundtrack for chakras realignment. Peace & B Wild.
And finally we get back to more familiar grounds, England, to delve into the elegantly ethereal and intimately sensual world of miss Rosie Lowe. Just look at the cover…
She is SO British. The damp dress, the look that you don’t get to see but you know is staring right back at you, poised, fierce. And her music is just like that, tough, personal yet capable of creating a great emphatic bond, to communicate feelings, emotions.
Take Lifeline, the very first song from her second album YU. It has got these swooping yet chopped synth stabs (very “Hypna”, if it was ever a thing), her voice unflinching yet with a vulnerability you can hear at the end of each line. And the delay and the vocoder come and go as if they wanted to mimic the faltering conviction of each statement… “it could all be so simple…. but.”. She is scary, she is asking herself, as well as us, “why… you?!” (…YU). And the whole album is about YU. The songwriting is gorgeous and the production is stellar. She goes from the funk/pop of The way (great rhythm parts all over, just like in the previous Control, kick drums you just can’t listen to with earphones) to the dirty R&B of Birdsong (which to me sounds like 90’s Prince, with the sultry male choirs of songs like Emale… but she was probably more inspired by D’Angelo’s Voodoo!). And in between you have all these moody yet chirpy pop songs that make you feel all serious only to make fun of you for feeling that way (“You’re so lovely, but you’re dehydrated. May be a genius, but you’re not hydrated”).
I may not be a genius, but she is. Best served in a dark room (or a garden on a summer night) with a side of, very, large speakers.
After Austria we go to Japan and my second favourite j-pop (?!?) band right now: ポルカドットスティングレイ (Polkadot Stingray)!
What would you get if you crossed LADYBABY with Red Hot Chili Peppers?! To me, Polkadot Stingray is kawaii funk/rock, noisy but catchy, rowdy but elegant. They are young but technically very proficient, great rhythm section, great guitar playing (just like my 一番好きなバンド, ゲスの極み乙女 [Gesu No Kiwami Otome]).
Their second album is called 有頂天 (uchoten), “ecstasy”, and it’s a very urban affair. Songs about love given/taken/broken/fought over, like in funky highlight パンドラボックス (Pandora’s Box), or modern city life, like the aptly titled 化けものだらけの街 (“a city full of monsters“) (stylised as “City Life” for the western markets). The songwriting is good (the previous 全知全能 had much greater consistency but sophomores are always harder) and the playing has… lots of traction. A great listen-while-you’re-driving kind of album!
“Ein Leben ohne Grenzen
Eine Freedom zu verschenken
Eine Freiheit, nicht zu denken
I better open my eyes
Ich mach’ die Augen auf”
I’ve been listening to lots of very good stuff lately (right now I have Erika de Casier’s Essentials on deck) but so far my favourites from 2019 aren’t new personal discoveries but rather three new offerings from acts that I already knew and loved.
First we got the new album from Austrian genius kids Bilderbuch, Vernissage my heart. An ideal continuation of 2018 Mea Culpa, it’s so obnoxiously inventive… can’t they just make two songs alike?! For once!
Although the record doesn’t have disarmingly perfect songs such as Gibraltar or Checkpoint, it’s a very charming thing. You get the opening triptych of Kids Im Park / Frisbeee /Led Go that take you somewhere weird: heavy guitars, shouted choruses, low-fi vocal samples, oblique structures. They are not going for catchy here but rather multifaceted. Then you get the catchier stuff: Ich hab Gefühle, Vernissage and Europa 22. And here is what I like about Maurice Ernst & Co., the rhythms, the (keyboard) riffs, the bass… the bass!!! Funksters from Kremsmünster… yeah right!
No, it’s real. You listen to the verse of Vernissage my heart and it’s driven by just drums and bass, groovy and melodic, it feels like you don’t need anything else. And you don’t. But they give it to you anyway, like guitarist Michael Krammer does. What he plays is so subtle, smart, so bent on servicing the song that it would almost be self-effacing if not for the fact that you can’t help but notice every single note he churns out of his guitar.
Lyrics can be silly, like Frisbee, but some of them, like Europa 22, can really resonate.
Bilderbuch is beautiful soundscapes that you can make your own. I was listening to this record in the snows of the Dolomites and I’ll listen to it again lying on a beach somewhere this summer. Equally appropriate, equally enticing.
For Apple Music users… here is my profile!
Episode #2 is out!
This time it’s about Appetite a song by cult 1980s sophisti-pop band Prefab Sprout.