La Vida Te Da

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Spain's Amparanoia created a minor sensation with their debut album, garnering a BBC Radio 3 world music award. This, the follow-up, sees them getting real international distribution, and refining their rich sound, which draws from flamenco, the Mediterranean, Cuba, and even a few touches of ska (quite apparent on the bilingual "You Know What I Mean," which seamlessly and infectiously slides between styles). Largely recorded live in the studio, it's a playful outing, full of life, and little reminiscent of their friend Manu Chao. Sometimes it just percolates in a low-key manner, as on the overlong "Saracon Agua," whose horn charts fill out what's really just a vamp, but when they get going there's a fire to the music, as on "Tiempo Pa Mi," where it switches to double speed and takes on a burnished Cuban groove. It all comes together with "Nada," which is far more than nothing, full of bubbly percussion as it slinks along with a sexy smile, propelled by singer Amparo Sánchez's smiling voice. She's quite charismatic, but in a relaxed manner, leading a band that doesn't try to flash its technique, but lets the song do the talking. It's a friendly record, bounding around like an eager puppy. But perhaps the best thing is the writing -- everything sounds so familiar, like "Little Think," which sounds like a lost '70s reggae-soul classic.

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