First off, I would like to wish you all a belated Happy Valentine’s Day with this quote from the book I’m currently reading: “In truth, what you need–what you deserve, after all–is someone exactly as imperfect as you.’
Though late, I’m currently watching the Netflix series Sex Education: in the second season, there’s a scene where all the main female characters of the show end up in detention because one of them is suspected to have written sexual insults regarding the literature teacher on the walls of the high school.
As a punishment (and to force the guilty one to confess) the teacher asks them to think about what brings them together as women and find an answer altogether. After two hours, they can only think of one thing only: sexual harassment and unwanted attention.
Similarly, in today’s review, I wanted to talk about three artists from different countries and different music backgrounds that, although seemingly not having anything in common with each other at first glance, have brought their vision to the world with their new releases: I’m talking about AURORA, Silvana Estrada, and Mitski.
The Gods We Can Touch by AURORA
It’s been ages (a.k.a. three years) since AURORA dropped a full-length project. All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend (2016) was certainly a sound-defining album, followed by A Different Kind of Human (Step 2) (2019), which I sporadically ignored.
Now, the Norwegian artist is coming back with an album that incorporates everything she is known for–but better: acoustic and heavenly sounds perfectly matching the electro beats laid over them, a formula foreshadowed by the lead singles “A Dangerous Thing” and “Everything Matters.”
The intro to the album, “The Forbidden Fruits of Eden,” gently accompanies the listener into what will be their host reality for the next hour. Then, “Giving In To The Love” sort of breaks this illusion and presents a more active, more pop aspect to AURORA’s music style, which still reflects her aesthetic.
Many other songs absolutely stand out in this amazing project: the cry for love “You Keep Me Crawling,” the very cinematic ballad “Exist For Love,” the more down-to-earth “Exhale Inhale” (a critique to climate change and global warming), and the powerful “A Temporary High” and “Blood In The Wine,” which really show AURORA’s undeniable talent as a singer as well as a songwriter.
Although Anthony Fantano gave it a 6/10, I found this album absolutely enchanting: an album to dream and dance to at the same time, whether that is a ballad or a tempo song. An album I will be going back to again and again. And again. And again.
Marchita by Silvana Estrada
Described by The New York Times as “a devastating album about heartbreak,” and certainly the best album I listened to in January, Marchita is the second studio album by Mexican singer-songwriter Silvana Estrada. I wouldn’t have discovered the album hadn’t it been for (again) Fantano’s review on his YouTube channel, where he rated it a 9/10.
Since I’ve started listening to music in other languages besides English, I decided to give it a try. And oh God. The first song, “Mas O Menos Antes,” definitely sets the tone of the album: quiet yet haunted by the beautiful melodies that Silvana creates with her voice.
The rhythm gets a bit faster with the next songs, “La Corriente” and “Te Guardo,” followed by the acapella “Un Día Cualquiera,” where she almost exclusively sings on what sounds like someone keeping the beat with their feet and hands.
At the heart of the album is “Sabré Olvidar” followed by the homonymous track “Marchita,” which are made even more powerful by Silvana’s insane vocal melodies and devastating lyrics:
Voy a callar un par de días, Alejarme de tu nombre, Abandonar mi artillería, Abrazarme al horizonte Y olvidar. Sabré olvidar.
Though not being particularly familiar with traditional Mexican music, I felt she was paying tribute to the great songwriters of her land while, at the same time, creating something completely new and fresh. This album feels like 2022, and I really cannot explain why. Nonetheless, it does.
If no one intervenes, “Sabré Olvidar” will end up becoming my favorite song of the year. I feel it.
If you’ll listen to only one album this week or month, please let it be Marchita.
Laurel Hell by Mitski
Let me start by saying this: Mitski is one of my favorite artists to date. Period.
Her second and third albums, Puberty 2 (2016) and Be the Cowboy (2018) respectively, shaped my adolescence, and I somehow managed to pass on this obsession to my teenage sister–and I’m proud of that.
I’d love to end this review with the same statement but, unfortunately, I can’t.
After a pretty solid start with “Valentine, Texas,” which literally explodes on your face, the quarter-life-crisis leading single “Working for the Knife,” and her latest single “Stay Soft,” I was expecting the rest of the album to follow this build-up in tension and rhythm. But that’s not what happens.
Essentially, I found that Laurel Hell lacked the emotional potency that her previous albums carried–especially musically: the songs felt incomplete and somehow rushed, and their sequence did not create any ascending nor descending climax towards the middle or end.
Overall, I still think Mitski’s evolution shows even in this relatively weak effort, but it is nothing compared to the above-mentioned albums that really defined an era in many people’s lives–and in mine.
Pitchfork – Don’t Cry for Mitski
The New York Times – Silvana Estrada Arrives With a Devastating Album About Heartbreak
jose m. – Quién es MITSKI? La Misteriosa Artista