When Nalda Became Punk

A Farewell to Youth

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The history of indie pop since it was invented way back in 1986 is littered with bands that have all the right moves -- like sha-la-la melodies, a nice ratio of noise to jangle, peppy rhythms, and lovelorn (or lovestruck...or lovesick) lyrics -- but are let down by one important flaw (lead singer can't find the tune, synths are stuck on the presets, drummer plays too much, etc.). Spain's When Nalda Became Punk have all the right indie pop moves and none of the flaws on their debut album, A Farewell to Youth. The duo of Elena Sestelo and Roberto Cibeira write catchy, mostly melancholy pop tunes that are framed by noisy guitars, mopey-sounding synths, and a very cheesy drum machine. Sestelo's sweet vocals float across the top, with grace but also some emotional depth. And, importantly, her vocals are always in tune with the music around her. Producers Eva Guilala and Iván Juniper (of Elefant indie poppers Linda Guilala) and the legendary Ian Catt (who worked with the Field Mice, so he's got a lifetime pass with pop kids) blend the organic with the clunkily electronic well throughout, giving the songs some grit but also a slightly goofy video game-y undercurrent. This comes through best on the almost giddy "Summer, You and Me" (which pays a heavy debt to Helen Love) but can be heard fleetingly in other places. Despite these moments and the fact that most of the album's tempos and energy are set to jumping-around-the-room levels, the overall tone is a little subdued and blue, with songs about heartache bumping up against songs about lost youth. Only a couple songs bring it down to near-ballad level ("The Young Artist," "Modest Circus") and they work really well, giving Sestelo a chance to lay down some true vocal melancholy. This is a fine debut from a band whose members know their history, understand the historical pitfalls that could have ruined them, and manage to avoid each and every one while delivering a solid and enjoyable indie pop gem.

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