Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Gaby Moreno – Juegos y Miedos

From Guatemala via LA, she wrote the theme to Parks and Recreation.

Jonathan Bogart: Possibly the least representative song from Postales, certainly the most boring, “Juegos y Miedos” still shows off Moreno’s skill with arrangement and her ability to wring emotion out of very subtle vocal shifts. Previous single “Valle de Magnolias” is one of my favorite songs of the year, and not only because I recognize bits of the video from my teenage years; there’s undoubtedly a bit of home-team favoritism in my love for Moreno’s music (she’s Guatemalan; I spent my youth there), but her compositional strength and sensitive performance earn it.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Moreno delivers her lyrics in a slight husk of a voice, her words sung with just enough clarity to offset the audible hesitance. She sounds like she’s holding “Juegos y Miedo” tightly to her chest, mentioning mumbling through tears as though she may descend into just those. Instead of breaking down, she builds instrumental flourishes around her vocals, warbles of woodwind and string embellishments allowing the drama to work its way to the surface. She builds and builds — then lets that glorious ostentatiousness sink away, denying herself immediate catharsis. We end up back at that husk, the words just drawling out, the wounds festering. It’s quite the performance.

Edward Okulicz: Parts of this so exactly replicate the Jon Brion sound that I was momentarily convinced it must be something gathering dust since the 90s when nobody knew how to sell this stuff to people who weren’t me. But no, it’s recent, and the work of a Guatemalan living in LA, and produced by Dan Warner. I don’t speak Spanish, so for the first few listens I was hoping that the lyrics would have the same kick of scared romanticism that the music does, and a quick Google didn’t disappoint: “Sail seven seas with you/I will, believe me” is perfect even in English. Moreno is expressive and arresting, but her voice and melody are dreamy at the same time. That’s a trick and a half. I nearly docked a point because the middle drags a bit, but by the end I kind of wanted another minute of those gorgeous sighs of “ooh” and aah.”

Iain Mew: I grew up on this kind of slowburning orchestrated indie, so nostalgia may be colouring my perception of “Juegos y Miedos.” I’m so impressed by how gorgeously it unfolds though, from wending through teasing little snatches of strings and woodwind to settling into a kind of groove for the long ascent to the climax. Moreno casts herself as the one being swept along by all but just about keeping control, and fills the role well.

Rebecca A. Gowns: Captures that moment on the cusp of love: “para qué si al final siempre perdemos?” Still, you’ll fall — still, you’ll ask them not to run away — no matter how terrifying the road ahead looks, or how scarring the road before has been. It might work this time. With this person. The song builds in a satisfying symphonic way, and falls back into simple melody so succinctly… a familiar old trick! But it’ll get to me nonetheless.

Alfred Soto: Folk prone to Sea Changes often distends into shapes unacquainted with buoyancy. This one comes close, and Moreno’s knowing rasp is the key: it palliates the schmaltz.

Will Adams: “Juegos y Miedos” seems unordinary at first glance. This sort of song — guitar-led indie-pop with larger orchestration slowly seeping in — is a dime a dozen. But there’s thoughtful effort put in that sets it apart from its kind. First, the change in meter from verse to chorus is so seamless I wonder why it isn’t more common in pop. Second, the orchestration plays a respectful role, bolstering Gaby Moreno rather than upstaging her. Take, for instance, the first verse, where the piano softly tumbles in, or the bridge, where pizzicato strings and woodwinds are sprinkled delicately between the vocal phrases. The strings swell where they’re needed, and the brass blurts in spots. “Juegos y Miedos” understands that its strength is its charismatic singer, and it’s all the better for it.

Katherine St Asaph: We never did cover this year’s Katie Melua album, did we?

Anthony Easton: The kind of song that could appear as interstitial music late on Definitely Not the Opera, which might not be fair, but the kind of swoony, almost drunken grace of the song is well done. Overwrought, not polite enough to be restrained.

Brad Shoup: I was practically holding my breath during the chord plunge; it bears a strong resemblance to “Fade Into You,” but without the girding narcotic bliss. Moreno has a tremendous tremble, a performative vibrato that locks in meaning. That the arrangement eventually resolves into a decadent-Beatles thing is certainly a plus for me. For skirting the line between baroque and for-its-own-sake AM Gold, I’m going full marks. This could be comforting and terrifying, depending on the circumstance of approach.

Reader average: [8] (7 votes)

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3 Responses to “Gaby Moreno – Juegos y Miedos”

  1. It didn’t fit in my blurb, but I heard a lot of Sharon Van Etten in this. Anyone else?

  2. WINNER.

  3. 2 from 2, baby!