La Joven Dolores offers further confirmation of the new-found maturity Christina Rosenvinge introduced in 2008's excellent Tu Labio Inferior. After a decade or so spent in reshaping her artistic persona from the lighter cast of Christina y Los Subterráneos, elegantly dabbling with experimentation, covers, and singing in English in the process, Rosenvinge seems to have finally found her true voice as a dark, delicate pop/folk songwriter in Spanish. La Joven Dolores is one of those albums where a soft, shyly alluring female voice purrs over 50 languid minutes of perfect pop, all stylish pianos, cellos, acoustic guitars, and just the hint of subtly menacing electric tension right below the surface. The Achilles' heel of this kind of record is the risk of the songs blending into an amorphous lull, pleasant but seldom memorable. It is here that Rosenvinge's lyrics come to the rescue, adding dark, provocative layers of meaning to a deceptively glamorous facade. By turns intelligent, moving, and/or intriguing, Rosenvinge is supple enough to encompass absorbing portraits of mythological women such as Eve or the nymph Eco ("Eva Enamorada," "La Canción de Eco"), nostalgic memories of her lost childhood or youth ("Jorge y Yo," "Nuestra Casa"), a bitterly ironic tale of violence against women ("Sombras"), or the cold dissection of personal relationships, from the scathingly spoken "you can build brick houses from true love, but from this thing that there is between you and me, you can only get song choruses," of "Weekend," to the self-derision of "I'll do anything for you, Sundays at Ikea, going to a musical" of "Un Hombre Muy Formal," the digital-only bonus track. As usual, Rosenvinge has surrounded herself with exquisite, similarly minded collaborators, including Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley, Yo La Tengo's Georgia Hubley, Boat Beam's Aurora Aroca, Jeremy Wilms, and Charlie Bautista. Still, perhaps the most significant contribution comes from the icon of French coolness Benjamin Biolay, who adds piano and sings in both Spanish and French in "La Idiota en Mi (Mayor)." Biolay's presence directly points to the growing influence of female French singer/songwriters like Françoise Hardy or Keren Ann (Biolay has worked with both) in Rosenvinge's music, something that sets her apart from most female Spanish singers, who are typically not too fond of whispering introspection and thoughtful subject matter set to lush pop miniatures. But then again, Rosenvinge's seductive appeal -- positively glowing in La Joven Dolores -- has always been as cosmopolitan as her background.
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