Sara Valenzuela

Lado Este

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Knowledge of Spanish isn't a prerequisite for enjoying Sara Valenzuela's solo debut, any more than it was necessary to know whatever fairyland language Elizabeth Fraser sang in the Cocteau Twins. That comparison isn't made lightly, because while Lado Este (East Side) isn't nearly as amorphous as the Scottish trio's reverb-heavy neo-psychedelia, there's a similarly hazy, floating aspect to these languid arrangements. (Other convenient touchstones include Suzanne Vega's later albums, Aimee Mann's grown-up pop, and the Sundays' soft-focus folk-rock.) A popular radio personality in her native Mexico, as well as the former lead singer of popular ska-tinged rock en español act La Dosis, Valenzuela has gone in a more mature direction on this album, blending layers of acoustic and electric guitars with some glitchy electronic textures (especially on the clattering "Tócame," a languid neo-psychedelic ballad decorated by a rhythm box with the energy of a hyperactive puppy) and overlaying the results with her rich, sultry vocals. Although the production is occasionally just a little too subtle and classy for its own good, slightly blunting the impact of a dreamily sexy tune like "Para Qué?," Lado Este is an appealing, solid debut.

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