Javiera Mena - Mena

Mena, Javiera Mena
Union del Sur, Chile
Rating: 100 ★★★★★
by Carlos Reyes

There are records destined to mark a generation, Javiera Mena’s Esquemas Juveniles did just that for us during the 00s, it’s the perfect pop record that found perpetual life as a consequence of its own grandiosity. It’s been four years since that masterpiece was released and we still can’t get enough of it. We still refer to it as the next Latin classic and we feel comfortable positioning it up there with Café Tacvba’s Re as a one-of-a-kind revolution. Esquemas Juveniles is our reference; it’s the landmark album that we’ll keep in our hearts as a generation-best, not to mention it is the one record that virtually killed the RockEnEspañol tag without too many people noticing. She has done it again, her new record Mena is not only the home of this year’s most exciting music, it will also provide us with anthems for years to come.

Mena’s copious gestures are self-defining, self-driven, and self-pleasing; this is where her skills come in handy, she loops our generation’s flashy, anti-preventive narrative through her own skin and pop-glam commemoration. When approaching Mena, one must understand this isn’t a pastiche of chamber pop songs crafted for revival purposes, yes, the songs sound retro, but only because they’re channeled through Javiera’s revisionist sensibilities. Mena is instead, a diaspora of nine songs that are pushed forward into a gravity sprawl of prisms and shooting stars. Javiera is a pupil of pop music’s endless corners, with influences that go from Daniela Romo to Karen Carpenter, flirting around the Cocteau Twins, Juan Gabriel, and of course, Italian 90s music. This isn’t electro-pop or sophisticated kitsch music, this is pop idiom at its finest.

Just listen to “Hasta La Verdad” and recognize the outlandish by which the song is driven, it’s as if harmony was given life through sparkling lights. It’s bleak and glossy, sexy and stylish. It’s the meeting of disco noveau and la cancion latinoamericana through the intuitive senses of Javiera and the nihilistic strings of Kelley Pollar. The Chilean chanteuse surveys music landscape carving for synth melodies, somehow, she extracts pearls. Yet with all the complexity that’s found in Mena, it almost sounds effortless. It’s way more accessible than Esquemas Juveniles and even more playful. Unlike some of her contemporaries (Bat For Lashes, Nite Jewel, Fever Ray), Javiera found a way around the vanguard and the dualistic; nowhere in the album does she sound perplexed or complicated, neither does she need a concept nor a character to legitimize her sonic trenches.

If her debut carried a sense of post-adolescent commentary, this second album outshines demographics. “Ahondar En Ti” opens the romantic disco ball in a very emotional piece resembling Pedro Almodovar’s sketchy sequence in Hable Con Ella, where a miniature man sneaks into his lover’s vagina. This song isn’t as sexually explicit, but invests on that notion of one’s inability of taking such inner trip. In the search of such poetic realm, the singer along with amazing producer Cristian Heyne, construct a hyper-industrialized setting where her voice is trenched into a mechanical body, “al tratar de concentrarme, y empezar a decidir, me doy cuenta que hay mas ganas, de ahondar en ti.” Every bounce in “Ahondar en Ti” feels like a hurtful stab in the heart, a dilemma that only finds harmony by assuming its sorrowful reality, “tu no me des la espalda, no, no me des la espalda… me enamore tambien de cuando me das la espalda.”

“Primera Estrella” outlines the album’s immersive composition; fantastically open to possibilities, revolutionary on its own terms, and in constant motion. Mena’s chameleon abilities, unique voice, and uniform lyricism make her sound like Timbiriche in this song, and there’s not an ounce of guilt or disappointment when I say that. If “Al Siguiente Nivel” was a generation’s transitory heartbeat into a new era, “Primera Estrella” is the allocation of such romantic notion but in a one-on-one rhythm; “ven para mi, ven pon tu mano en mi corazon.” The album keeps a luminous flow with “El Amanecer,” which is chopped into a mind-blowing sequence that’s the opposite of chillwave; something incredible considering it’s as sonically disembodied as any song from the latest Ariel Pink album.

The best moments of Mena arrive towards the end of the album, starting with the album’s best track “Luz de Piedra de Luna.” This is one of the best disco songs I’ve ever heard, just like Café Tacvba’s “El Baile y El Salon” or Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”, Javiera takes ownership of the dance floor, she murders the scene with every step and even has a story to tell: “cuando empuje la puerta me empezo a pasar, que la noche la ocupaba yo en pensar en ti.” It’s mean and it’s poisoned, it’s a song not for the fainted hearted. Everything is perfectly executed, from the on-action beats to the passive tropical layer that later takes over the song’s climax. And let’s not forget that memorable cameo appearance by Lido Pimienta as the ghost of first love. Jens Lekman appearance in the soaring track “Sufrir” is equally inspiring; the song is a blast and no joke, they have as much chemistry as those Javiera-Gepe duets.

Spaniard pop visionary Emilio Jose once said Javiera did the most beautiful ‘slow’ songs in the planet, I agree. However, there are probably more disco strings in Mena than in any other album to be released this year; this is a disco dance record (do not call it electro-pop). If you are looking for the quiet magic of say “Camara Lenta” or “Sol de Invierno”, there’s a single track in Mena that will blow your mind away. “Un Audifono Tu, Un Audifono Yo” is breath-taking, almost unconceivable. The earphones as a device of emotional attachment, “como me gusta escuchar las canciones contigo.” Equally charming is “Aca Entera,” perhaps the catchiest song in the album and Javiera’s heart-on-her-sleeve moment. This is clearly a song for her girlfriend, a song about finding your whole… “cuando vamos las dos, son tus pasos latia, la bajada nos guia en directo al amor.” I cry everytime.

Javiera Mena is a pop genius, an individual that holds its ground through music as the individual art form and the art’s indefinite course to become something bigger. Mena, or the year’s best album will have to live its own albatross before we can call it immortal, but for the moment, let’s say Club Fonograma’s staff can’t enough of it, that it’s already inspiring us, that it’s our current obsession and our free-of-guilt center of devotion.

42 comments:

FalsaBaiana said...

Hurrah! Can't wait to check this out, soley because of the lure of *Disco Strings*!!!

Anonymous said...

download link ???
stupid !

lafonoteca said...

Me muero por tener el disco en mis manos, sobre todo el prometido vinilo. De momento sólo he escuchado la versión esa filtrada con mal sonido y además le falta la de "Sufrir".

TickyLaCubanita said...

wow this song sounds amazing, 100! haven't seen that around here

GORGEOUS album cover

Jean-Stephane Beriot said...

Is it better than Esquemas Juveniles? I don't know. Is it amazing? YES.

Pretty much the best album I've heard this year, in any language, it's the real deal.

Wonderful review Carlos!

"fantastically open to possibilities, revolutionary on its own terms, and in constant motion"

Humberth Hayes said...

So this was out today (1:00 AM) and you wrote this essay-review (amazing I should say) in 2 hours?

Or did you actually review the unfinished copy going around the web?

Just curious.

Man! "Luz de Piedra de Luna" is almost historic.

XAVI said...

Si alguna vez hubiese pensado ver un 100 de parte del Club Fonograma, sabia que seria para Javiera Mena. No puedo esperar, a comprarlo pues.

Javiera, preciosa.

allisonn said...

WAIT WAIT WAIT Jens Lekman is in this? the JENS LEKMAN? Say what? Holy shit. Awesome.

:O

Andrew Casillas said...

"WAIT WAIT WAIT Jens Lekman is in this? the JENS LEKMAN? Say what? Holy shit. Awesome.

:O"

I said the exact same thing when I first heard it.

And @Humberth: let's just say that writing for Club Fonograma has its perks

Jean-Stephane Beriot said...

Humberth, while Mr. Carlos Reyes is the owner of a sharp-pen, no, this isn't as improvised.

Like 99% of the releases, we get them way ahead before they become 'public.'

Augusto said...

All the latin hipsters on the world are officially getting wet.

But no kidding, so glad this is out on iTunes already, Esquemas Juveniles was the perfect album no one heard in 2006, and it went cult, now, it's a classic.

"Ahondar En Ti" seems interesting, can't wait for that one. I didn't know she was gay (since you do mention it's a song for her girlfiend... "cuando vamos las dos", I guess I now understand her "Esquemas Juveniles" video so much more. Damn, I'm in love with her.

I almost spilled my decaf reading that Timbiriche comparison LOL.

Anonymous said...

Soy de los que a veces deja comentarios sobre Club Fonograma siendo un blog palero, pero esta vez me callo hasta no escuchar, Esquemas Juveniles es en realidad el mejor album de pop Latinoamericano que hay, punto.

Este track que incluyen aqui ya empezo a facinarme, es una locura.

Pablo D. said...

DISCO NOVEAU MEETS LA CANCION LATINOAMERICANA.

wow, best description of Javiera Mena, ever

Anonymous said...

This is the first time CF gives an album 100 right?

Anonymous said...

Don't know if this is the album of the year, but that cover, is best of the year material.

Andrew Casillas said...

I believe it is. Think of this as our "Kid A moment."*

*please do not think of this as our "Kid A moment"

Blanca Méndez said...

@Augusto Yes, all Latin hipsters everywhere are creaming themselves because this album is GENIUS.

Path said...

Ok, so my favorite blog gives an album a perfect rating,instant buy, Im half way through it and Ive cried and danced like a dancehall queen should do, gracias Javiera! Por todas estas cosas.

Anonymous said...

So, ClubFonograma approved ha?

Yo no te pido un 100 said...

Me encanta Esquemas Juveniles. Me gusta Javiera Mena. Música, imagen y todo lo que emana la chilena es más que interesante, pero no es un poquito demasiado colocarle 100 a su nuevo disco? Ahora puedo entender que su blog recupera ese sentido que hacia tan entrañables y combativos a los fanzines: ser radicales y fans hasta los huesos.

Anonymous said...

¿Y ningún comentario a cerca de la mejor canción de todo el álbum, la bellísima "No te cuesta nada"?

Este disco no es mejor que Esquemas Juveniles, tiene un par de canciones insoportables... aunque el primero también las tenía.

Ojalá que el próximo sí sea su obra maestra.

Jean-Stephane Beriot said...

Yes, it is this blog's 1st whole-100 rating... but we've only been around for a bit more than 2 years...

Jaime Martinez said...

Pues a mi Javiera Mena me parece super sobrevalorada, pero si tiene talento.

Aplaudo los cojones de darle a un disco una calificacion perfecta, alguna vez en We Shall Be Free (un blog de aqui, de Monterrey), decia que Club Fonograma tomaba las cosas como si nu hubiera mañana y que eso estaba chingon, concuerdo.

Anonymous said...

sí, este nuevo disco tiene unas joyas, el sencillo por ejemplo. Pero también tiene unas insoportbales, de hecho la que pusiste para escuchar en este post me recuerda a Martha Sánchez o a Sentidos Opuestos. Es feísima!
Extraño la parte folky de Javiera.
Y bueno, estoy en shock: es lesbiana!!! Y yo que creí que algún día podría casarme con ella!!

Anonymous said...

Lo bajé hace 3 horas. De taringa claro, porque lo de iTunes solo corre para México y EEUU.
No lo he dejado de escuchar desde ese momento.
En efecto ES MEJOR que Esquemas Juveniles.
Es un disco plagado de himnos, bañados con arreglos electrónicos, pero todo hecho con mucha sutileza.
Para mi Esquemas Juveniles y Mena son ambos obras maestras.
Muy bien Javiera.

Anonymous said...

no me gustó nadita!!! leí un comentario arriba diciendo que se parece a Sentidos Opuestos. Concuerdo totalmente. "El Amanecer" qué es eso? es horrible, es como Fey. En serio, no le veo lo increíble a este álbum.
Demasiado pop ochentero mexicano escuchó la Javiera.
Saludos desde Chile
Gabriel

oscar said...

Javiera Mena es lo mejor que le paso a la musica Latinoamerica en mucho tiempo. Mena es un discazo, pop, no diria que es perfecto, no le daria un 100, pero si un 96 o un 97, que ya es mucho, empezamos esta decada con una obra maestra.

Anonymous said...

hell yeaaaaaaa!!!!!!

alli said...

AHONDAR EN TI. SONG OF THE YEAR

Santiago Ulloa said...

"desde que la primera estrella brillo"

Yes I wet myself all throughout, this sounds amazing, has the aesthetics, and it's clear-minded (unlike her debut)

Luz de Piedra de Luna kicks major butt, best dance piece in a long, long, long time.

amable said...

Orales! esa rolilla que pusieron parece hermanita de “las propiedades del cobre” by Quiero Club.

lo escucharé todo. Javiera sea.

Anonymous said...

so damn hot, and she's so beautiful, can't wait to get a physical copy of this, anyone?

how do I get it?

Anonymous said...

Mmmm....alguien dijo Ace for Base?? Overrated!!!

Anonymous said...

Mónica Naranjo Reloaded!!!!

julezsantiago said...

es mejor que los discos de triangulo de amor bizarro y el nuevo del guincho, si se convinaran los dos, tampoco llegan a la grandeza de Mena

Anonymous said...

discazo

el amarillo said...

Al principio me sentía raro oyéndolo, como uno siempre tiene cierto prejuicio después que un artista que te gusta mucho saca un disco genial. luego no sabes si sera igual o mejor, pero llevo días oyéndolo y no me aburro para nada... junto a Robyn y Janelle Monaé! mis discos del año!

slejw said...

can't wait to get a physical copy of this, anyone?

how do I get it? [2]

Anonymous said...

i want it i want it i want it

Daniel said...

Ok, so I come from a different perspective... I hadn't heard of Javiera Mena before this post and have downloaded both of her albums and listened to them a couple of times now over the last few weeks so here come my opinion. Is "Mena" a good album? yes... the best latin american indie album of the year... probably yes... better than "Esquemas Juveniles"?... No. To me what makes Esquemas a standout are actually the slower moments on it such as Sol de Invierno, Perlas, Esquemas Juveniles, etc. Admittedly "Mena" has 2 of those moments in "Audifono" and "No Te Cuesta Nada" but it's just not enough for me. I get the electro thing is in and while I like how Mena does it to me it's when she mellows out and connects to my soul that I come back for more. I love this blog, thanks to CF for introducing me to more great latino indie music.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this tips

Tex said...

I love the amazing review, and I love that you write in English for people like me.

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