Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Pistolera’s New Album: Catchy Yet Deep

Simple and catchy yet often profoundly poetic, New York janglerock-en-Español band Pistolera’s new album El Desierto y La Ciudad is divided up into an A-side and B-side. Without being polemical, frontwoman/guitarist Sandra Lilia Velasquez contemplates the situation facing immigrants in America, first literally tracing their steps in the desert, then their struggles (and their joy) in New York. Her viewpoint may be Mexican-American, but her songs are universal. The terse, edgy band alongside her includes Maria Elena on accordion and piano, Inca B. Satz on bass and Sebastian Guerrero on drums, with Cordero’s Ani Cordero taking over behind the kit on the hardest-rocking songs.

An often unspoken irony abounds here. It’s front and center on the album’s most confrontational number, the catchy reggaeton-influenced singalong Escucha (Listen). Who’s illegal, Velasquez wants to know. You, me and everybody else, it seems. “Who takes care of your kids? Who cooks your food?…The hypocrisy is killing me,” she sings, in Spanish. The fieriest song here, Todo Se Cae (Everything Falls Down) alludes to the 2008 economic collapse and the current depression; it’s a cautionary tale to seize the moment, hold onto what you have as the foundations are shaking. The bustling subway anthem Laberinto (Labyrinth) projects an unspoken unease – “welcome to the underground life” – but also celebrates a city where there are parks and beaches everywhere, and a train to take you there. And the swaying, reggae-tinged Ponle Frenos (Put on the Brakes) ponders when a hardworking woman, or man, can get some time alone – with an incessant “beep beep beep” chorus.

The “desert side” of the album sets up all this drama artfully: the pensive, syncopated ranchera-rock of Polvo, apprehensively evoking the vastness of the desert and all that it represents; the imaginatively dub-flavored title track, and the mournful diptych that winds up memorably with David Bailis’ potently elegaic, ringing lead guitar, the immigrant knowing that it’s time to leave, that everything good comes to an end. The albums ends with Floating, a pretty, ethereal acoustic anthem and the only English-language track here. With a hallucinatory, dusky vibe, it echoes the Julee Cruise song : “I could walk a hundred miles and still not get there,” Velasquez muses. Not only is this a great listen, this album ought to be mandatory in Spanish classes in American schools. Velasquez’s crystalline, subtly nuanced vocals are easy to understand, the tunes are fun to sing along to – and her lyrics pack a wallop. No doubt you’ll be seeing this on a lot of “best albums of the year” lists by the end of 2011. Pistolera plays the cd release show for this one on July 29 at around 9 at Drom, with excellent country/Brazilian band Nation Beat opening the night at 8. Tickets are ridiculously cheap at $10.

July 17, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Pistolera – En Este Camino

One of the best debuts of 2008, a bracingly catchy, smart, politically aware all-female rock en Espanol band blending upbeat accordion-driven Mexican banda music with jangly guitar rock. Pistolera means “gunslinger” in Spanish: the title of the cd is “this way.” Augmented by a horn section in places, the production is superb, vocals, guitar and accordion out front, drums in the back where they belong.  The optimistic Nuevos Ojos (New Eyes) begins with a reggaeish, clip-clop beat (that’s Ani Cordero, frontwoman of the excellent Cordero back behind the kit), frontwoman/guitarist Sandra Lilia Velasquez’ casually soulful vocals joined by the band on the chorus as is the case on many of the songs here. Piloto (Pilot), set to the same beat, features an amusing, upper-register Dr. Dre-style synth patch blending nicely with the accordion.Vieja (Old Lady) is a haunting, swaying, somewhat stately number with a long accordion intro.

 

The band add clarinet and tuba to the bouncy yet pensive oldtimey ballad Un Momento. Sarcastically set to a jump-rope melody, the lyrics to Policia recount the true story of Velasquez’ nasty encounter with airport police, who wanted to confiscate her newly acquired bullet belt:

 

Senor policia le digo la verdad

Si soy peligrosa pero no por les armas

Dejeme libre y jamas me va a ver

Uno de mis talentos es desaparecer.

(Mr. Policeman I’m telling you the truth

If I’m dangerous it’s not because of my weapons

Let me go and you’ll never see me again

One of my talents is disappearing)

 

 

The punchy, rustic, acoustic Inquieta (Nervous) is a strikingly terse, poetic look at the restless unease of immigrant life. The theme continues, picking up the pace with Extranero (Foreigner), a timely reminder that ultimately we’re all strangers somewhere and that we’d better not forget it. The rest of the cd includes the catchy, mariachi-inflected love song Eres Tu (It’ll Be You); the contemplative, piano-driven tango Reina (If I Was Queen), and Guerra (War), a timely remake of the Bob Marley hit that references Iraq, Afghanistan and Chiapas. What a good band, and what a fun album. And you don’t have to speak Spanish to enjoy it (although Spanish speakers will appreciate Velasquez’ excellent lyrics). Watch this space for New York area shows; Pistolera’s next gigs are Oct 17 and 18 at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain, NC.

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment