Juan Son

Mermaid Sashimi

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The solo debut of former Porter frontman Juan Son, Mermaid Sashimi is a daring debut effort that bridges the gap between indie electronic and alternative rock. It's quite experimental for mainstream Latin pop, and while some songs are just plain weird, there are a few front-loaded highlights that are really great ("Nada," "Mermaid Sashimi," "Goldfish"). As bold and curious as the music is on Mermaid Sashimi, the vocals are what really stand out and are likely to either make or break this album for most listeners. Though Son hails from Guadalajara, Mexico, the 25-year-old wunderkind sings most of Mermaid Sashimi in English rather than Spanish. The stand-out lead single, "Nada," is one of the exceptions, as it seems most oriented toward commercial appeal in Mexico. Moreover, Son sings in a fey, otherworldly manner reminiscent of Björk and her Icelandic contemporaries Sigur Rós. Though his vocal style may be off-putting to some, it's well-suited to the experimental nature of Mermaid Sashimi with its off-kilter beats, lo-fi keyboards, and free associated lyrics. In a way, Mermaid Sashimi could be seen as a Mexican response to trailblazing American indie acts like Animal Collective, and one can easily envision more music along these lines arising in Mexico in the years to come, in particular from those like Son who have cross-cultural experiences (he studied for a year in London, England, and his former band, Porter, toured internationally, most notably performing at the 2008 Coachella Festival). As impressive as the aforementioned run of front-loaded highlights are, Mermaid Sashimi feels like a formative effort by Son. Like Mexican alternative predecessors Natalia Lafourcade and Julieta Venegas, it might take him a couple albums to refine his style, reach his full potential, and drift into the mainstream. In the meantime, Mermaid Sashimi is a promising debut that's both fearless and trailblazing.

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