Rating: 82 ★★★★
A lo mejor soy yo. Maybe it’s just me, but I do feel that women have –perhaps little by little, but unquestionably– taken over the world… of music. I might be wrong, but I think it’s clearly been going on for the last 3 or 4 decades. At some point it was more of a struggle (for the Janis, the Joni Mitchell and even the Tori Amos… and we don’t wanna get into the intimate hardships of an Edith Piaf a Billie Holiday or a Nina Simone) yet now, we would seem to be full bloom into the age of woman, of ease, grace, sweetness, intelligence, mystery and of that subtle and fierce strength… the tenderness and all of the magic that the feminine creativity brings to the music universe. I could list my favorites amongst these new girl-led projects, but the list would be too long and I would deviate further and further from my initial goal for this text. Thus, I must focus on one: Maria Rodés and her 2010 album, her first under her own name, Una Forma de Hablar.
So, what does the record sound like? At first there’s the hiss, the ffffff, the breathing of electricity, the loopy repetitive nature of the pumping heart of the machine that has become as important an instrument as the guitar or the piano… the machine that has made it possible to pull these days’ muses’ gifts down to earth even if you don’t yet have the budget or the recording studio available to do it as was needed in the olden days. But this hiss is here by choice (not anymore due to a lack of means or quality), the record gets cleaner and a bit glossier as it pulls us deeper into it, it’s electronic atmospheres and cutting edges play peacefully next to her guitar and amazing vocal pads. Hers is an enviable instrument I must say. The excellent production is partly Ricky Falkner’s fault (he’s also produced Love of Lesbian, Sidonie, and his own band: Standstill) as well as Maria’s.
Rodés’ songs have the immediacy of modern folk, not as extreme as the irreverence of anti folk, but decidedly fun, honest, organic, definitely fresh, definitely strong and particularly mesmerizing. Think Sufjan Stevens and then try to think Juana Molina at the same time. Maria brings truly memorable melodies to the table, sorta like (instant) classic, timeless melodies; gorgeous yet simple and (as it’s been said before when referring to her) naïve tunes that work perfectly as canvases for her truly felt, sincere lyrics, which mainly deal with the matters of relationships, people, thoughts. Everyday things any young girl could relate to. Birds chirp, more hiss, wind, wind instruments.
There’s a bit of Spanish indie pop in Maria’s work for sure, but there’s a bit more than that too. There’s a bit of chanson française in those charming songs. Reminiscent at times of the work of France’s First Lady, Carla Bruni (the whispering voice, the mature, sultry, witty and terribly feminine songs), hell there’s even a hint of Brigitte Bardot in "Rima con Canción’s" strip-tease-worthy beat. I’ve learned now that there’s a reason to Maria’s French side. She found her musical calling in Paris, after fleeing a career in Audiovisual Communication in Barcelona.
Rain. Thunder. Toy instruments. Water pouring. The crackle of a vinyl record going round, before you know it, you’re transported. You feel somewhere else, you’re in Europe, you’re looking out a balcony of a fourth story, you’re looking at the rooftops of Paris, there’s cooking in the kitchen, you’re in love, you see doves fly across the sky, (it’s almost like a perfume commercial) clouds look like cotton candy, angel choirs harmonize to your humming… and then you pay closer attention and the lyrics aren’t all that loving, you get the words and… what? Is she telling you that you’ve got her so tired she’s even bored of herself? Darara darara dararararara ra ra… Irony doesn’t sound this delicious often. Nor angels this naughty.
So, what else does the record sound like? Well, it reminded me of Laura Barrett and her kalimbas with Desastra. It flaunts a Kings of Convenience reminiscent elegance in "La Nana del Agua." It builds some pretty cinematographic spaces, but always makes enough room for Maria’s voice to shine through with ease. This is an album that breezes by, never feeling long, its 11 tracks are thoroughly a pleasure to listen to and each is a little jewel, full of detail, full of joy, more accurately: melancholy and joy. Approaching the end of her record, Maria sings “Mis canciones son fugaces” and well, you could say that, but fortunately we can go back to them as often as we want. Or bring them into our living room to turn it into a Parisian flat for a while.