CHORANDO APRENDESE, EMILIO JOSE
Foehn, Spain *****
By Carlos Reyes
My iPod just got a whole lot more interesting with the arrival of Chorando Aprendese; the bleakest, most complex and gorgeous breakthrough album this year has given us. Emilio Jose is an unbelievable revelation to keep an eye on; he is the owner of a graceful sense of melody and an out-of-this-world ambition that cements amazingly clever moments throughout a double album of 28 tracks total. But don’t let such big number scare you, he makes this voyage a precious moment of non-stop march-like protestation. In fact, get prepared to inhale various tricks, harmonies, and unexpected shifts within each song; he approaches ideas with adventurous aim, unrolling a diverse palette of genres that go from bossa nova to rap, going through Spain’s vanguard indiepop and gently sloping into classic stanza.
How ambitious is it? Let’s say that Chorando Aprendese is anti-folk, wants to be pop and once at it, it might just redefine Brazil’s over-inflated contemporary music. Emilio Jose ruthlessly sings in Portuguese, Spanish, English, Catalan, Gallego, French, Italian and I bet there’s more in there I didn’t quite get. Of course this is an excessive scheme, but before a bright writer, he is an originator and destroyer, he knows that such ambition can only be polished with even higher aspirations, and indeed, his musical composition surpasses any necessity of understanding words. Let’s dismiss any kind of encyclopedic reasoning; this is by all means the work of an author playing anti-hero, but it doesn’t stop him from trying to adjust the world by squishing it together or tilting music to uncommon places for that matter.
Disco Uno. There’s no definite division in concept or theme between the two discs, but the first side is clearly the point to meet, acclimate and discover. Through its piano-based melody and induction to group-vocals, the intro is a great example of how radical works are best portrayed by classicism rather than pure experientialism alone. “Atlantic City” literally spells out what the album is about or at least its structure; there is no base layer whatsoever, plenty of unexpected transitions, quick catchy choruses, and awesome samplings from speeches, movies and TV shows. In this particular track the inclusion of the Care Bears sing-along explodes charm into an already easy-listening track that nonetheless is one of the album’s most complex pieces. “Vodka” is what a creepy teenager who doesn’t like La Casa Azul or Cola Jet Set would probably listen to; it’s like the song matures within itself, going from a happy bright song of call-and-response and flourishing into a well cultivated adult folk.
Chorando Aprendese gets political in “Barack Obama”, although it does give reference to the American state of mind, what it really wants to do is to bring Madrid awareness of its countryside. The song breaks into a despaired rap as it realizes there isn’t much to be done for a conclusion. “Samba de Ines” was not that exciting at first, but it later turns into a musical rainbow that rotates, translates, and reflects. And let’s not forget the memorable “Son Gohan”, in reference to Dragon Ball of course, or the funky tongue-twisting “Astroturfing” which turns into a video game. The best track pops near the end with “Antigua”, questioning the mellowness of voters at the time of embracing a politician, and that baby gugu loop that follows is priceless.
Disco Dos. The other side is sweeter and very low-key, shorter in length and more instrumental. First, let me get something out of my system, “Ola!” has to be one of the most touching pieces of the year along with Nuuro’s “Coctachi” and Juan Son’s “Ana Paula.” It’s a heartbreaking remorseful song where a guy tries to win its love back; it gets some help from Dallas (the TV series), “I Apologize” (the classic hit by Billy Eckstine), a flashback in voice-off and a heart-trenching opera. “Ti” is the catchiest song in the whole album, it’s a vocal fest and utterly round. Other standouts on this side are “Febreiro” and “Parada de Sil”, both sounding very rural and gigantically reviving the wall of sound. Six short cuts give the album a concrete finale to an album that is close to a masterpiece, expect a lot of attention in the upcoming months or maybe years, it will travel and hopefully get its due.