Friday, September 7th, 2012

Javiera Mena – Luz de Piedra de Luna

With a bullet…


W.B. Swygart: THAT. FUCKING. PERCUSSION. Busting in on your left lughole as the chorus kicks into gear, brooking no argument whatsoever — you’re getting chokeslammed in that water, and it is fully expected that you will swim. The force dims with repeated listens (there’ve been plenty), but the maelstrom’s utterly intoxicating.

Mallory O’Donnell: What the Pet Shop Boys, bless their hearts, thought “Domino Dancing” sounded like: a song for which one could shuck all clothing and restraints, shimmying off rhapsodically into the night to a Latin-house beat that could go on forever, yet possessed of a certain barely-definable sadness. About as perfect as songs get.

Andrew Casillas: Pardon the (slight) hyperbole, but what can I say about this song that hasn’t already been said about the Sistine Chapel? Everything about this is configured exactly right — the house piano, the Miami Sound Machine percussion, the disco boot stompin’ beat, the steady ebb and flow of the vocals, etc. Yet this song feels naturally big and epic without the cold precision of so much dance floor filler. This is the best kind of pop music — the type which, at its most primal and satisfying, makes its listeners lose their inhibitions and surrender to the power of the beat. By that measure, “Luz de Piedra de Luna” is one of the greatest pop songs of this young century.

Edward Okulicz: Waiting two years to release this as a single is cruel because this deserved a video to showcase its effortless sense of movement. It doesn’t disappoint, as it’s a rather inspired pastiche of late ’80s dance music video history that should be accompanying some kind of amazing Italo-house belter. Mind you, said video is not a bad fit for “Luz de Piedre de Luna” either. The verses move a little slowly, but that’s all the better to take in all the little sonic touches and chimes, backing vocals and blissfully stretched notes. Every little touch of percussion sounds tuned to perfection without once seeming overly fussy, and if the chorus is a formality, it’s a formality loaded with rapid-fire hooks. Like “Hasta la Verdad,” this song isn’t long but is expansive and inviting; it builds and throbs and shimmers. Disco lasers and house pianos — what more could anyone ask for?

Patrick St. Michel: Two years ago, Mena caused the remaining pillars of my former indie-snob self to come crashing down for good. The centerpiece of Javiera Mena’s sophomore album, “Luz de Piedra de Luna” was also the final detonation needed for me to go from insufferable “ughhhh, pop music” eye-roller to someone hypothetically willing to sacrifice the entire Bon Iver discography to save this song’s chorus. The song is all about total release, but Mena wisely builds some tension first — this song starts as a relatively minimal disco number, with a few nice percussive touches and fog-machine synth in the background. Then the drums rush in, a piano line sneaks in and Mena herself lets go, everything whirlwinding into a chorus equal parts dramatic, dancey and dizzying. Mena’s post-chorus humming and the laser whooshes are great touches, but those get forgotten when she dives right back into that hook. I’ve listened to this frequently for two years now, and still the best I can sum up my love for “Luz de Piedra” is it is a song I just want to dive into and never leave. What I’m trying to say is: glad they finally released this as a single. 

Jonathan Bogart: It bothers me that Latin pop moves so much more slowly than Anglophone pop that the obvious standout from Mena is only released as a single two years later. Or maybe that’s just the difference between indie pop and mainstream pop. The score is for the song, and slightly for the video, not for the circumstances of our covering it.

Iain Mew: I remembered both the focused, determined verses and the dazzling chorus. The long gap to release, though, means that the sheer force of joy when one switches to the other is a surprise all over again. It’s like she’s been singing this lovely song on her own in her room, and then all of a sudden everything is zoomed out to reveal drums and dancers and lights and lasers that it was meant for all along.

Katherine St Asaph: A hundred people just exploded into cowbell.

Anthony Easton: Bouncy, with some beautiful instrumental breaks, and vocals that slide along effortlessly. Extra points for the disco lasers. 

Brad Shoup: I’m staying for the dips and doops, the programmatic production choices. Mena’s not the most expressive of singers, but unless you’re Gotye or an absurdist, keening over pastiche could misstate the point. It’s a fine tour, but not quite a whirlwind.

Sabina Tang: My only issue with this highly catchy slice of dance pop: while the vocals open up as the song progresses, they start off so muted that they never fully overtake the momentum of the track, even as the chorus blows up into full-out Latin piano house. A bit of an oldie at this point, but still a goodie.

Alfred Soto: Thinking that dumping single after single on the international market will turn Javiera Mena into Shakira, her record company’s next choice is this dance-inflected house-infected pop track with a gooey “no no no” chorus. An album track if there ever was one.

28 Responses to “Javiera Mena – Luz de Piedra de Luna”

  1. Love curmudgeonly Alfred.

  2. I have no real qualms with Alfred’s opinion, but if anyone wants to turn Javiera Mena into Shakira I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THAT.

  3. I second AC’s motion.

  4. Wow, I knew this would score high but didn’t think it’d rocket to the no. 1 spot. And… eh? It’s a [7] probably, my thoughts closest to Brad’s. That piano, though.

  5. It’s not “Aca Entera.” I’m also annoyed that a 2010 track is now our highest ranking single of 2012.

  6. Incidentally, if I had given this a [7] this would have scored below Usher and Charli XCX.

  7. What a time to be alive!

  8. Hey Alfred, we’ve still got at least one more Taylor Swift single this year to potentially top this.

  9. May you be cast into hellfire, Will.

  10. It’s the good old Pazz & Jop year-of-impact clause! A clause I haven’t taken advantage of, but still.

  11. Huh. This is I suppose a sign that many good wars have been won, but isn’t it quite… TASTEFUL?

  12. I share Alfred’s annoyance. Not enough to change my actual response to the song, but for the record.

  13. The fact that it’s a 2010 track is *why* it’s rocketed to the top, no? It’s the sort of song that stays in one’s personal rotation for a long time and never sounds worse than it did the first time.

  14. The comments about this song on the “Hasta La Verdad” entry make it look like it could have done just as well in 2010. Also Zach’s first day! Aww.

  15. I was going to say that this is Alex Anwandter’s “Cómo Puedes Vivir Contigo Mismo” with the interesting bits sanded down, then I looked at your entry for that song and saw that Jonathan Bogart had nearly said the reverse.

  16. Timeliness is overrated, by critics and by other forms of human. This was released in 2012 and people voted for it the same way they voted for everything else. If it had been Gotye would we be having the same discussion?

  17. Still, I’m really glad there was at least some dissent on this. When I checked the post this morning I thought maybe I’d woken up on another planet. Again.

  18. Also, Patrick : your blurb makes my day.

  19. If I had blurbed this I would’ve mentioned Andrew saying it would break the rating system in 2010. That comment had me anticipating our score, for, uh, two years.

    Alas I didn’t have much to say about this. I like it alright, but my score still would’ve knocked it out of first, again.

  20. Terrible, good, and great pop depend on timeliness for propulsion, even if we’d played Capn Save a Goyte.

  21. Isn’t timelessness also a factor? I understand you didn’t find it in this song, Alfred, but a number of other people did. All of whom seemed to know that the song was two years old.

  22. I’m not looking for converts: I’m explaining a position about a song I like as a track on one of my top ten albums of that year, plus, you know, Raising Questions. My demurrals stem from the worry that a 2010 tune may top our poll in December. I’m not blameless either. I had a similar dilemma with Eric Church’s “Springsteen,” at the moment my single of the year from an album released LAST summer. It’s possible that fans of “My Hometown” (#6 peak in 1/86) and “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” (#1 in 1/91) worried too.

  23. Gotye don’t play that

  24. Anyway, we’ve got two Chileans in the top ten now. What are we, NPR?

  25. Usher is from Chile?!!

  26. For what it’s worth, I hadn’t heard this until now and was lukewarm on the other Javiera Mena single we covered.

  27. This is of course a [10] and has been since the moment it was created, but no slating of “Domino Dancing” in comparison por favor. A classic PSB moment and a brilliant double bill with “Luz de Piedra.”

  28. Musically, this song is awesome…but the lyrics of the chorus are so clumsy! (Soooo clumsy that i would feel embarrased to listen to this in front of my friends). [6]