A promotional photo of the artist
Yes, I shall return. But I've had an awful dry spell in posting this month, and the way things have been going lately the drought may continue (or return at any time).
The subject title today is in contrast and reference to "No Vuelvo Más", a song from one of my latest favorite singer/songwriters, Ximena Sariñana. I haven't picked up Rolling Stone regularly in some time, but I'm so glad that I came across its 4-star review of her debut album, Mediocre, last September. After visiting her website — mostly just a portal to her MySpace page — and listening to a handful of tracks, I was sold; I looked for it at some local stores, came up empty, and was gifted an MP3 download of the album around the winter holidays by a friend. [Update: I've added a photo more representative of the artist than is the album cover.]
Those of you more MySpace-savvy than I — which if my parents didn't read the blog could well be all of you — may know this (and it may vary from page to page), but until the other day I didn't realize that I could choose from more songs than the half-dozen featured in Ximena's player. Clicking on "Albums" at bottom left of the player lets you select from the original release of Mediocre, its US edition, and an EP also titled Mediocre, almost all of whose tracks are available to stream in full. I haven't linked to the US edition because the track list is the same as for the original except that two songs are missing, one of which is the jazzy standout "Sientendo Rara" — though it occurs to me belatedly, having only the MP3 version, that if you like what you hear you might want the US edition of the album for its presumably English liner notes.
Covers to the Mediocre EP and LP, respectively
Mediocre is sung entirely in Spanish, you see — Ms. Sariñana, who seems to go mostly by her first name, is Mexican — and with almost nothing to show for my one college semester of the language (taken after five years of French and right on the heels of a summer of intensive Japanese; my B was quite generous) I definitely react differently to these songs than had the lyrics been in English. I've learned to appreciate instrumental contributions moreso in recent years overall, but with the lyrics sung in a foreign language I'm certainly paying more attention to the sounds and Ximena's voice as an instrument in the mix.
That voice evokes emotion regardless of language, and in fact is nearly the only thing unifying the eclectic Mediocre, which veers from style to style — vocally and musically, the album recalls artists from Sadé to Fiona Apple to Sarah Vaughan. The title opener is a bluesy, ballsy torch song, leading into the peppy "Vida Paralelas"; "La Tina" is like trance hip-hop fronted by Basia, while "Pocas Palabras (Juan)" begins with an echoing, meandering piano and becomes a swingy piece of mostly acoustic pop, interspersed with synth and distortion, that I could imagine being sung by Carole King. Some tracks admittedly fall into that category of songs you like because you've grown to like the performer; I'm pretty sure that I heard the better tracks first and more often on MySpace, by accident or design — the latter is suggested given that the songs featured there now are winners like the catchy "Normal" and "No Vuelvo Más".
The Mediocre LP's production tricks mostly work in the songs where they're employed. Some of the EP's remixes, however, are laughably misguided; the spare original version of "Mediocre" is worthwhile, as is the new "Pajaritos", sung in English and sounding for all the world like something from She & Him, last year's Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward project.
After six months of thoroughly enjoying the ironically titled Mediocre, I'm interested in exploring like-minded Latin American artists. I sampled the group Volován, whose collaboration with Ximena on "Monitor" closes out both their album by that name and Mediocre, but didn't care for it. The comments section is but a click away should you have any suggestions.