Yes, I shall return. But I’ve had an awful dry spell in posting this month, and the
way things are going the drought may well continue.
Today’s post title is in reference (and contrast) to “No Vuelvo Más”, a track from
the debut album of singer/songwriter Ximena Sariñana. I haven’t picked up Rolling Stone regularly in some time, but I’m so glad that I came across a copy with its 4-star review of that album, Mediocre [Spanish: meh-dzhyo-kreh], last fall. After visiting Ximena’s website — mostly just a portal to her MySpace page — and listening to a handful of tracks, I was sold.
An original Mexican edition of Mediocre, a US edition, and an EP confusingly also
titled Mediocre exist, nearly all of whose tracks are available to stream in full. The US version has two fewer songs than the original, including a jazzy standout written by
Erik Coates titled “Sintiendo Rara”; if you like what you hear, though, you might prefer the US edition for its presumably English liner notes.
Ximena, who seems to go mostly by her first name, is bilingual and was raised in Mexico City. And with very little to show for my one college semester of Spanish (taken after five years of French and right on the heels of a summer of intensive Japanese) I definitely react differently to these songs than I would’ve had the lyrics been in English — more aware of the soundscape and Ximena’s voice as another instrument within the mix, I think.
That voice evokes a great deal of emotion regardless of language, and in fact is the
most unifying element of the eclectic album — which veers from style to style, vocally and musically, recalling artists from Sadé to Fiona Apple to Sarah Vaughan. It opens with the bluesy, ballsy torch song “Mediocre”, leading into the peppy “Vida Paralelas”. “Normal” is a welcome earworm; “La Tina” is like trance hip-hop fronted by Basia. “Pocas Palabras” begins with an echoing, meandering piano and becomes a swingy piece of mostly acoustic pop, interspersed with synth and distortion, that I could imagine being sung by Carole King. Some tracks may fall into that category of songs that you enjoy largely because you’ve developed an affinity for the performer.
Mediocre’s production tricks mostly work on the LP where employed. Certain of the EP’s remixes, however, are laughably misguided to me; the spare, demo-style version of the title track is worthwhile, as is the new “Parajitos” — sung in English and sounding for all the world as if it came from last year’s Zooey Deschanel / M. Ward project She & Him.
After six months of playing Mediocre in heavy rotation, I’m curious to explore similar Latin American artists. I sampled the group Volován, whose collaboration with Ximena on “Monitor” closes out both their album of that name and Mediocre, but was left cold. The comments section is but a click away should you have any suggestions.
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