Monday, January 26, 2009

Argentina's Talent Bank Not Bankrupt

There are benefits to being a disc-jockey on campus-community radio that go beyond the mildly delusional notion of being cool within a fairly geeky setting. While wading through lots of music you would hope didn't exist, you're also bound to come across some true gems you'd otherwise never hear.

So is the case with my discovery of Juana Molina, a charming singer-songwriter from Argentina with a neat background to boot. Before she ever started releasing music, Molina was actually a pretty big television star in her homeland, appearing in various comedy programs.

Somewhere down the line I guess she got tired of that gig and decided she'd rather make otherworldly space-folk with a serious flare for atmospherics. Her music relies heavily on the looping of her voice and acoustic guitar sprinkled with quirky electronic flourishes. It's like a stripped-down Bjork, minus the hype and swan dresses.

Her 2006 effort Son introduced me to her sound, plucked off the shelves of CHMR-FM in St. John's, Newfoundland. I guess the cover art was what initially drew me in (being released on a decent label like Domino Records helps matters too). As you can see here, it's very pretty.

The album's second track, "Yo No," is as good a point of introduction as you'll find on Son. It opens quietly, with just Molina's voice and some woozy keyboard noises accompanying her vocal lead. Eventually her voice travels in a spooky fashion, panning and swooping endlessly from left to right before light percussion enters the picture. Another verse begins and eventually gives way to a trippy breakdown before the track moves towards its conclusion.

The mix makes it a great headphones song with its inventive use of the left and right channels, where all parts float back and forth. Based on experience, her music also seems well suited to mixtapes for girlfriends. Likewise, nerdy guys such as myself should appreciate her inclusion on a lovingly crafted cassette mix.

"Juana Molina - Yo No"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Disco Balls on Hold

Once upon a time marijuana was more popular at dance clubs than cocaine, the term British Invasion didn't reference The Bay City Rollers, and Australia's Bee Gees had yet to release the most popular movie soundtrack of all time.

It will always remain near impossible for people to not instantly think of a young sexy pre-Scientology John Travolta striking an exaggerated dance pose on a glittering floor when someone mentions the name Bee Gees. I was in the same boat until I came across a free copy - through one of my dad's retired teacher friends - of the early hits compilation Best of Bee Gees.

With a plethora of sophisticated pop songs, this collection shows that more than anything, the Bee Gees were a group prepared to swing with the times. Lord knows they would've been a musical afterthought if they hadn't gone on to reinvent themselves in the mid-'70s as chest hair pimping disco kings.

Far and away the most bizarre track on the album, "Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You" is a hard psychedelic pop nugget that sounds more Beatlesy and less Boney M.-ish. It opens with what I figure is some sort of Latin chant ("Oh solo Dominique") before moving into a lilting verse with lush harmonies backed by a booming psychedelic rhythm. The chorus, which simply repeats the title over and over, is jubilant and joyful. A great song from an unexpected place.

"Bee Gees - Every Christian Lion Heart Man Will Show You"