Featured artist: JUANA MOLINA
The song playing on the radio
in the background was called “Cúrame.” I started
listening to it because I understood the Spanish (my third language),
which was good for an ego that needed some stroking. But after
that, I wanted to know who was singing it, and was there more.
The singer-guitarist turned
out to be Juana Molina, born in Argentina, self exiled in Paris
for 6 years, returned to Buenas Aires to become a comedian-media
star in the early 1990s, who then turned to music, eventually
moving to L.A. where she recorded her third album, Tres Cosas.
Tres Cosas is special.
I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite like it, even
though it sounds quite folky. Juana Molina manages to be original
in a toned down, mostly acoustic format. Her touch is soft but
confident, and her chords often include an unexpected note that
pins down a particular mood. What probably gives her music its
unique je ne sais quoi is the time she has spent in L.A.,
and before that, Buenas Aires, along with her ability to tap into
the strangeness of life that overcomes everyone from time to time
in the big city.
On top of not quite conventional
Argentine melodies, Molina adds loops that sound like sea spray,
mixed in with spacey, ambient sound-effects, as well as an interesting
range of feminine percussive taps and tingles, and even a xylophone.
The result is an unlikely fusion of Latina, folk, ambient, New
World, and for good measure a tablespoon of Radio Head, sung mostly
in Spanish. That it all blends together so well is what continues
to amaze me. Please don’t let the espagnol come
between you and music that merits more air time and a wider listenership.
Outside of Spanish speaking
communities, Juana Molina is hardly known in North America. Which
doesn’t surprise me. Not if, but when she becomes known
-- won’t surprise me, either.