Defensa EP, Torreblanca
By Carlos Reyes
It was around 2007 when I first came across the music of Juan Manuel Torreblanca, an instant MySpace music crush that turned into friendship. It’s hard writing objectively about a friend’s music, it’s even harder if that friend happens to be an occasional (sharp and amazing) contributor to your website. Have no doubt, there’s sentimental tissue here that tunes my senses into Torreblanca’s music. Instead of trying to approach this as an outsider, I’ve decided to embrace the proximity between the ‘critic’ and the artist, not allowing such conditions to overthrow this review’s sincerity and heartfelt study.
Juan Manuel has come a long way since cutesy songs a la “Pancakes” or “Nada Me Saca de la Cama”, his music has evolved into songs that are hard to spoil, between the brimming and the transcendental, and the nihilist soundscape. Under the format of a band, Torreblanca exclaims autonomy in all four tracks that comprise the captivating and far-fetched debut Defensa EP. And it doesn’t hurt to have Andrea Balency as a member of the band; she does some of the most outstanding vocals I’ve heard in a while. This is a pop record worth of investment on just about any of its layers; it’s polite, agonizing, audacious, but most of all, an overture of music’s very own virtues and contradictions.
First single “Defensa” is a puzzling rare track, a sort of extravagant shout on guilt and pleasures hard to resist. Defensa EP is built on beautiful struggles and unconceivable victories. Despite its warmth, I found the overall journey to be a riveting violent record, only subtle to those “in the mood for love.” Torreblanca holds its romantic spirit in its classical and ravishingly modern constitution. Particularly in the richly textured “Parece Navidad”, where the orchestral passages parallel to the on&offs of a light bulb. Either as a mournful welcoming of Christmas (“te digo la verdad, yo me porte muy mal”) or a moment of meditation (“mentiras, mentiras, mentiras, ya no!”), the song is an absolute beauty.
“Largo” is collaboration with best pal Natalia Lafourcade, and another page in understanding Defensa’s curiously uplifting strength. It’s a deliciously painful song, “tengo miedo tengo mucho mucho miedo”, comforting and distressing at the same time. The song is well-grounded, unfolding its leaves on a “me quiere no me quiere” fashion which is as terrifying and faltering as silence itself, hearing Juan singing “algo, digan algo” brought me to tears. Torreblanca proves to be dynamic in the bombastic “Nunca Acabo Lo Que Empiezo” featuring LoBlondo from Hello Seahorse! Like Patrick Wolf or PJ Harvey, Juan Manuel Torreblanca’s vocals flirt with music in unexpected manners. The song’s imaginative and dripping brushes reconcile Torreblanca’s anxiety to portray pain as a valuable, healing and untamed resource for inspiration. A wonderful, edgy and ferocious debut.