Following the moderate success of his 1997 debut album, Javier Garcia, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist took his time with the follow-up -- oh, only about eight years of time, when he finally returned to the Latin music arena in 2005 with 13, a clear critical favorite before it even went on sale. García's new label, Universal Music Latino, sends out e-mail press releases about every weekday, most of them slightly newsworthy at best, often touting so-and-so's new album or single, or a current tour or whatever. However, when the label went about promoting 13, it skipped the usual marketing hyperbole and simply sent out press releases that compiled glowing review after glowing review. Judging from these press releases, you'd think every critic out there thought 13 was one of the best Latin albums in years -- and after giving the album a listen, you might agree. It really is that good. García offers an impressive array of musical styles, most of them Latin (or most specifically, tropical) but not limited to that (traces of rap and funk show up, for instance -- even turntablism!). But this isn't just a multicultural exercise; 13 has a lot else going for it. In particular, García has at his helm the best producer Latin music has to offer, Gustavo Santaolalla, who is very well known for his outstanding work with Café Tacuba, Juanes, and Julieta Venegas, among others. García said that he had sent his demos to only one person, Santaolalla, because the man with the Midas touch has "good sounds" and "not overpolished stuff." And that's certainly the case here, as this relatively dense music absolutely shines with crystal clarity. It's not overwhelmingly bombastic like a good majority of big-budget tropical music, nor is it overwrought with needless layers of overdubs. It sounds natural, like you were in the studio watching García and company cut the songs right in front of you. Which brings up what else 13 has going for it, a batch of amazing songs that are as diverse as the musical accompaniment. Granted, García had many years to come up with a good batch of songs, but still, the 13 here are all strong. There's not any filler here, for instance -- not even a single one of the obligatory fluffy ballads that are a staple of most Latin pop albums. In particular, the first four songs are all excellent -- "Bajo y Piano," "La Rumba," "Me Gustaría," and "Como Bailan" -- there's a gentle love song mid-album that is an absolute show-stopper, "Algo Especial," and it's all capped off with the similarly excellent "Sol." There's just so much to go on and on glowing about here on 13 -- the multicultural musical mixture, Santaolalla's trademark flawless production, the first-rate song lineup, García himself. Talk about a comeback.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier