Monday, October 11th, 2010

Javiera Mena – Hasta La Verdad

Wherein your editor feels remarkably negligent towards every Spanish-speaking country in the world ever…


Edward Okulicz: This has been the soundtrack to my dawn commute to work for the last week and it still sounds sumptuous and life-affirming as the sun comes up and the world wakes before my eyes. It’s disco, but it’s not nocturnal; this is an ultra-smooth soundtrack to a sunrise over the sea or a post-coital snuggle; its groove all tight sinews of pleasure and warmth. The strings at the end could have continued on for another 10 minutes and it would only have improved things further, too. Good on just one listen, but further listens reveal it to be incredibly durable luxurious, and even more so on repeat. The beat could have been a great 80s rap jam, or a cheesy 70s disco record, but its low-key melody makes it even harder to resist.

Martin Skidmore: Ooh, this is rather good. She’s Chilean, making sort of electro/disco of a shimmering, medium-paced kind, singing quite sweetly too in relaxed and smooth tones. There’s a lovely tune, lots to keep you interested in the music as well as being very danceable. I have a feeling it’s a grower too, and might even seem grandly majestic after a few more plays.

Mallory O’Donnell: To be up front about it, Javiera Mena’s made my album of 2010 and this is its’ first single. Thus, you might fairly well predict what’s in store : sweet, limber dance moves; joy tinged with sadness; sadness tinged with joy; strings by Kelley Polar; sensual, nuanced electronics; a vocalist more personable than professional. “Hasta La Verdad” isn’t the best song on Mena, but it’s the most appropriately autumnal. It also happens to be the most well-plotted, unfolding like a procession in formal disco attire beneath a polychromatic sunset. Despite such a gracious backing track, it is Javiera’s skyward-staring vocal that I keep returning to warm myself by, so confidently does it pursue the beat with eager naivete.

Chuck Eddy: As apparent frail indie art poetry goes, I suppose this is moderately lush, with a cute electro part or two, and an semi-symphonic swoop now and then. But it’s still frail indie art poetry. I think. And I’m not gonna cut it slack for being sung in Spanish. Which I don’t speak. And I’m not even 100% positive everybody speaks in Chile. So how the hell would I know that this is frail indie art poetry, anyway? Good question.

Zach Lyon: I think I remember changing the radio station whenever this would come on in Vice City. It gets a few points for the few seconds from 1:20 to 1:35 where we can actually hear her voice and personality and maybe for the strings, but the rest just sticks way too close to a 1983 sound that I wouldn’t have liked then, either.

Jonathan Bogart: As the song began winding down I was already formulating my response: pretty but distanced, the usual result of indie-meets-pop sensibilities. But then the strings cut in and there’s a sort of tribal soft-rock breakdown, and this is “Loba” with the weirdness cut out and the disco loveliness all that’s left. Which is fine by me.

Andrew Casillas: Ah, one of that most rare of pop music occurrences: the multi-purpose disco dance song. The kind of song equally appropriate for morning jogs, extended rush hour traffic, coke-fueled ultra lounges, and solo bedroom dance sessions in your skivvies with nothing but a hairbrush in your your right hand. It starts out innocent enough, with two minutes of sweet conversational fawning and light synths and disco strings, but then…it happens. Javiera Mena may have built her notoriety on sweet, naive electro-pop love songs, but 2 minutes and 18 seconds into this she finally throws away the pacifism and straight-up stomps all over your shit until you submit to her graceful command. By that point, you’re helpless. This feeling. It’s inevitable. You see the twitch in your leg. Finally, the beat dissolves and all you hear is “Hey tu, estas comigo. Hasta la verdad.” And you know that you’d better do what she says. You don’t even need Babelfish to help you figure it out. Just dance.

Tal Rosenberg: X: “Hey Tal, where’ve you been?” T: “Chile.” X: “Chile?! What were you doing down there?” T: “Fell in love with a girl. Name’s Javiera.” X: “What? No way! How’d you meet her?” T: “Buddy of mine. ‘Casillas’ is his name. Good man, owe him a beer some time.” X: “What’s the deal with the girl?” T: “Well, she’s adorable. She doesn’t sing with a lot of power but…” X: “Wait, she’s a singer?” T: “Yeah, did I not mention that? Anyways, she tries to push and the voice is a little flat. But man, she knows how to EMOTE. Really sings like she’s desperate to overcome whatever pain is building up inside of her. She’s got this song, ‘Hasta La Verdadl’: It’s a sucker punch. The thing just corkscrews inside of you and never leaves, and then it coils up in there and springs you out into the ether. She’s gone all disco now.” X: “Ha, nabbed yourself a real diva there, Rosenberg.” T: “What can I say? I’m a sucker for girls like that. Ladies who wear string arrangements like they do diamonds and pearls. Oh, and she bought the best. Authentic Kelley Polar strings on this one, straight out of the Metro Area shop. Can’t screw up a real opulent mid-tempo strut, oh no. Thing’s a real beaut.” X: “So where’s she now?” T: “Oh, you know, I’ve got her playing all the time. When I’m doing dishes, drinking coffee, dipping bread into soup. She’s just there, lingering in the background, but always forcing herself into whatever I’m doing. She’s just there, ‘until the truth,’ know what I mean?” X: “I think I do. Gotta run. Let’s talk soon?” T: “Yeah man, ‘Hasta.’ I owe a buddy of mine a beer.”

Iain Mew: This is one great song (disco strings, assertive, propulsive, dancey) springing fully formed from another one (soft, electrotwinkly, sounds a bit like the German rock MIA) with a whooshes and drums bit in the middle which somehow makes the transition make sense. Nice trick!

Alfred Soto: The star here is a glitter-synth arrangement that Debbie Deb and Stevie Nicks would have killed for in 1984, but Mena’s chalky timbre is all her own. And the lyrics hold their own.

Josh Langhoff: Striking in its deliberateness, the song builds meticulously to its final string extravaganza (sounds like the James Gang, of all people) while refusing to get excited, and Javiera refuses to emote or provide vibrato or alter her long notes in the slightest. She contemplates each sound as she makes it, examining her vowels in the shimmering light of the synths. Her approach suits the lyric, which I THINK is about appreciating the truth that’s right in front of you. Revelatory spoken interlude — “Hey… you… you are with me… Hasta la verdad” — leads into a (synth?) French horn solo which announces the dawn of some greater Verdad. Strauss on a mountaintop or some shit.

13 Responses to “Javiera Mena – Hasta La Verdad”

  1. X: “Whatever happened with that girl?” T: “She has an album out. Little minx gave it her daddy’s name. Reeeeal simple: Mena. It’s a gem, X. That baby’s got a whole lotta razzle-dazzle I tell ya. Lock for my top 10.” X: “Come down to Biff’s, Tal. I’ll buy you a beer!” T: “Sold!”

  2. this is a bit too j-poppy for me

  3. Well, first day and it looks like I’ve made enemies with everyone here, and the entire state of Chile…

  4. And Luz De Piedra De Luna is even better. Mena might end up being the hipsters’ new favorite (a la Annie) by the end of the year.

  5. People who don’t speak Spanish in Chile speak one of a number of indigenous languages. Or they’re damn foreigners who are taking away jobs from honest hardworking chileños.

    It would have been inappropriate to put this in the blurb, but this reminded me a lot of some of the music I listened to when I was managing Argentina in the Pop World Cup this summer. Argentina (and neighboring Chile too, it seems) has a vibrant indie-pop scene which mostly takes cues from Europe and urban America instead of local traditions, but insists on using Spanish like the proud aristocrats they descend from. (Of the other relatively-wealthy Hispanophone nations, Mexico’s indie-pop is more dancefloor-oriented, Venezuela’s and Colombia’s are more Caribbean, and Spain’s is more diffuse, like other Old Colonial Powers England and France.)

    All of which is way more speculative and essentialist than belongs in an above-the-line post — I’m just trying to sort out my preconceptions.

    Sounds like I need to hear the album.

  6. Parent album is amazing. Also, how are you gonna resist this album cover?

  7. Hey, welcome Zach, and I’m with you on this (or anyway, around 6 or so); this just isn’t my zeitgeist, I guess. And I’m someone who once loved a Sally Shapiro song, and remembers Boris Midney, and has two copies of Jackie Gleason Presents Music To Make You Misty (10-inch and 12-inch; not that I’ve heard either, as the vinyl is far too scratched, but the cover is superb), whereas “Hasta La Verdad” is too clumpy to be misty but too thin to be sensuous. Or anyway, there’s something not matching in my own sensibility.

    Think that Pretty Tony’s cheap space-invaders sound whooshes were perfect for Debbie Deb’s yearning; actual lushness would have taken her out of her habitat.

  8. Have bought this album and on first listen it’s fantastic – this song is far from being a standout. Also – Jens Lekman!

  9. Exactly. Part of my reasoning behind giving this a 9 at the very last minute was the fear both “Luz De Piedra De Luna” and “Sufrir” might be released as singles, since those are both such obvious 10s. Wait, fear?

  10. “Luz de Piedra de Luna” would break this site’s rating system.

  11. Holy shit, I can’t believe I missed this entry. Way to make me feel less lonely, Singles Jukebox. I don’t know of anyone in real life who’s listened to her and I haven’t been able to convince any of my friends to give her a chance. Honestly, the “Luz de piedra de luna”-“Sufrir”-“Acá entera” sequence blows my mind every time I listen to it. I loved Esquemas Juveniles so hearing “Hasta la verdad” allayed my fears about her new material, and hearing the rest of Mena was even more rewarding. It just made my heart explode with happiness. To see that I’m not crazy and that other people agree is just the cherry on top.

  12. I like the 1983 sound (maybe it’s really more 1977) but I’m not sure that this does a whole lot more than incarnate a 1983 sound.

  13. I don’t think this sounds particularly 1983 or 1977. (I’d probably like it a lot more if it did, actually.)