Amaral

Pájaros en la Cabeza

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In November 2005, the annual Latin Grammy Awards were presented for the first time in Spanish. Besides making life easier for the artists giving their acceptance speeches, this move affirmed that just six years after their inception, the Latin Grammys have come into their own. Certainly the sheer size and increasing independence of the Spanish-language music industry helps to explain how the best-selling album for 2005 in Spain could receive a pop nomination but go otherwise unnoticed in the United States. That's one theory; the other that pops into mind when listening to Pajaros en la Cabeza, the fourth release by the Zaragoza pop duo Amaral, is that it's a Spanish thing -- which, depending on your circumstances, could mean that you just wouldn't understand. Perhaps it really does take being the first generation in nearly half a century to grow up free of Franco's dictatorship to find freshness in lyrics that sound cribbed from the heyday of Sinatra and "My Way." Lead singer Eva Amaral and guitarist Juan Aguirre certainly love that phrase, along with "freedom," "my place," and the notion that their desires and feelings are unimaginable to an older Europe. Unfortunately, with the exception of "Esta Madrugada," a lovely lament written as a response to the 3/11 bombings in Madrid, most of the 14 songs on Pajaros en la Cabeza lack the specificity to back this generational posturing. To make matters worse, Amaral diminishes the appeal of her voice -- one similar to those of compatriotas Ana Torroja or Amaia Montero in its timbre and range -- by ignoring the matter of dynamic variation altogether. Whether pop, rock, or folk-infused, these songs either scream for attention or are so heavily mixed that the apparent lightheartedness of songs like "Marta, Sebas, Guille y los Demas" and "Salta" seems forced. It's only in the occasional hushed moment, as when guest vocalist Enrique Morente opens "No Soy Como Tu" with a lush flamenco llamada, that Pajaros achieves anything like texture or singularity.

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