Juramento Mantarraya

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Radiating warmth and good feelings like a sunny summer day, Aries' fourth album, Juramento Mantarraya, takes the template previously devised by Isabel Fernández Reviriego and tweaks it in pleasant and more modern-sounding ways. The last Aries album, Adieu or Die, was built on loops of guitars and synths, then her airy, sung-with-a-smile vocals were woven through the mix harmoniously. It felt gloriously homemade and fragile, while still being sturdy enough to carry the weight of the listener's troubles. This time around she and co-producer Jose Vázquez removed some of the fragility and replaced it with a booming bass-heavy bottom, then added a top layer of more polished-sounding synths and shinier loops. The overall sound is slicker and could have easily slid one step too far into the modern pop realm, but it doesn't thanks to the stickiness of the melodies, Reviriego's lovely vocals -- her harmonies shimmer and twine like birds soaring through a cloud-free sky -- and the good feelings that spring forward when the two combine. There is also a lot of skilled beatmaking and inspired loop chopping on display. Tracks like the stuttering "Un Gran Puente," the glittering "Space Cake," or the achingly pretty "Bahía Tristeza" do a magical job of combining lush sounds, tricky manipulations, lovely vocals, and emotionally resonant songs into music that will warm all but the coldest of hearts. Over the course of the album, Reviriego manages to pull off this trick like a skilled magician, never taking a wrong step, and crafting some of the freshest, most enthralling synth pop with heart around in 2019.

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