Federico Aubele's second album, Panamericana, features many of the same qualities that earned acclaim for his debut, Gran Hotel Buenos Aires (2004), and garnered a strong word-of-mouth following for his music. The porteño again sets his lovely Spanish-language songs against a hypnotic backdrop of Spanish guitar, dub basslines, hip-hop beats, Latin percussion, and ambient production motifs informed by Thievery Corporation, one of whose members, Eric Hilton, is credited with the album's production. As on Gran Hotel Buenos Aires, many of the songs are sung by females; in the case of this album, the dreamy voice of Natalia Clavier, a fellow Argentine from Buenos Aires, graces ten of the 13 songs, either as lead ("La Esquina," "Maria José," "La Orilla," "Corazón," "Lluvia") or harmony vocalist ("En Cada Lugar," "Tan Difícil," "En el Desierto," "Su Melodía," "La Mar"). In addition to playing guitar, along with most of the other instruments heard throughout the album, Aubele sings lead on about half of the songs ("En Cada Lugar," "Tan Difícil," "Pena," "En el Desierto," "Su Melodía," "La Mar") and harmony vocals on a few others ("Las Canciones," "Corazón," "Lluvia"). This is a key difference between Panamericana and Gran Hotel Buenos Aires, on the latter of which he performed the music but generally let a varied cast of women rather than himself sing the vocals. Also, the songs of Gran Hotel Buenos Aires were much less lyrical than those of Panamericana, with not only fewer vocals but with those vocals run through effects and mixed into the background. The vocals of Gran Hotel Buenos Aires consequently sounded like just another element in the mix, on the same level as the dub basslines and Spanish guitar. Perhaps purposefully, Panamericana is more of a singer/songwriter album, with the vocals in the foreground and Aubele stepping further into the spotlight, and with the dub aspects noticeably toned down. This may disappoint those who enjoyed Gran Hotel Buenos Aires as a lounge album, one that was beat-driven rather than song-based. These distinctions noted, Panamericana is still a fine album featuring many of the same qualities of its predecessor. Some may in fact prefer Panamericana because of its greater emphasis on songs, and perhaps because it's more conducive to live performance (Aubele indeed mounted a supporting tour, with Clavier in tow).
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier