Natalia Lafourcade

Hasta la Raiz

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It took Natalia Lafourcade seven years, a break-up, a creative block, and a tribute album to come up with a new batch of original material, but the ordeal ended in the best possible way with Hasta la Raíz. Her most personal and focused work, Lafourcade's sixth studio album won universal accolades, culminating in four Latin Grammys, including song and record of the year for the beautiful title track. And it's all the more deserving considering that the gentle melancholy of Hasta la Raíz stands as the polar opposite of the loud melodrama and braggadocio that passes for (commercially successful) Latin pop these days. Lafourcade built this album up from two main sources: lyrically, it is an obsessive dissection of a failed relationship, while musically it seem to have been taking cues from Mujer Divina, her 2012 homage to bolero legend Agustín Lara. Instead of being preoccupied with showcasing her awareness of current trends in indie pop, a trait that gave some of her previous work a touch of postmodern schizophrenia, Lafourcade delivers a similar sonic palette and mood, which strengthen the emotional impact of the record and bring her songwriting to the fore, rather than her arrangements. Make no mistake, these are extremely well-written songs in the spirit of the great Latin America romantic tradition of which Lara was a founding father, but infused with a contemporary perspective. Contrary to other Lafourcade albums, which had a tendency to cause a better first impression than to linger in memory, Hasta la Raíz is definitely a grower, one that blossoms over time from simply charming to truly poignant. In keeping with Lafourcade's reconnection with her Latin songwriting roots, various songs hint at huapango ("Hasta la Raíz"), bolero ("Antes de huir"), bossa nova ("Ha no Puedo Querer"), música popular cubana ("Vámonos Negrito") and '70s Spanish pop ("Nunca Es Suficiente" is a dead ringer for Jeanette's "Porque Te Vas"), all wrapped in warm and tasteful arrangements that include touches of electronica and strings topped with Lafourcade's hush of a voice. Despite the presence of various elements, there is a striking uniformity of tone and purpose in Hasta la Raíz, so much so that the very few instances that stray from the norm sound almost discordant in the context of the album, regardless of their individual merits, although this is often camouflaged by clever sequencing. Case in point is "Mi Lugar Favorito," a clear-cut pop hit with upbeat (gasp!) lyrics, but it's placed as the second track and thus is soon buried under the tender flood of sadness and regret that follow. The spine of the album is made of stellar songs such as "Hasta la Raíz," "Para qué Sufrir," "Nunca Es Suficiente," "Antes de Huir," "Lo que Construimos," and "No Más Llorar," all cut from the same heartbreakingly disarming cloth and all capable of rendering that elusive happy/sad feeling that is the magic secret ingredient of both Hasta la Raíz and profoundly romantic music.

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