Chucha Santamaría y Usted
Young Cubs, Puerto Rico/USA
by Carlos Reyes
While the faux Latin pop stars contemplate and exploit the fictitious renaissance of the lambada, there’s a new act in town worthy of the arched legs and the tall, chandeliered ballrooms. Puerto Rico’s Sofía Cordova and New York’s Matthew Kirkland have created a nest of up-scale and rule-breaking songs on their self-titled mini LP as Chucha Santamaría y Usted. Based in Oakland and enlisting Disco Tex and The Sex-O Letters as a prime influence, this pair of gleaming musicians (who point to an audiovisual experience at all cost) has a serious talent overseeing rhythmic momentum and nourishing their cadenced possession.
When trying to describe the band on their Facebook profile, the married duo redirects us to a quote from Howard Hawk’s adaptation of Raymon Chandler’s novel The Big Sleep. “She tried to sit on my lap when I was standing up!,” perhaps you need the context of the story to fully appreciate the give-and-take dialogue that’s happening here, but when trying to grasp the highly stylized ecosphere of Chucha Santamaría y Usted, understanding the fundamental and ultra contrasting elements of noir (as a brutal mood rather than a genre) comes in handy. Knockout single “Fiesta Tropical” fulfills the premise of the duo employing dualistic noir haze as if it were part of their negotiating terms to find sonic mantra. The track is happy catchy on the surface and wildly contemplative in the backdrop, just like the tropical fever they so ecstatically warn us about.
Although they sound urban, it would be somewhat of a stretch to say Chucha in the same breath as Santigold or M.I.A. (for one, because there is no anti-establishment or third world commentary here), but if publications abroad need that kind of guidance, well, there you have some. In all the Spanish-language pieces (but especially in "Fanta Fabuloso") the duo is closer to the reverse-shot-reverse pop structures contemplated by bands like Pau y Amigos or even María Daniela y Su Sonido Lasser, bands that, let’s be honest, make some of the most digestible pop on our continent. It’s the quieter (mostly in English) pieces in which Chucha really explores all corners of composition. Particularly in the anthem-striking “Bright Young Light Pt.2,” which unfolds beautifully with its semi-dub, semi-balladry articulation. Chucha Santamaría y Usted is onto something. With both members sharing custody of a love story, the future seems even more promising. For now, they’ve managed to visualize and endure the landing of a butterfly onto a girl’s hair just so the insect could whisper into the girl's ear that everything will be okay. Yes, they’ve made that superfluous thought believable.