La Santa Cecilia

Treinta Días

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From their earliest days as a scruffy punky quartet issuing their debut EP with individually hand-painted covers, Los Angeles' La Santa Cecilia have garnered excitement for their records and storied live gigs, whether playing at home or touring in Mexico. Along with a handful of other Latin alternative rock acts, they have made genre and language boundaries -- regional and international -- elastic, without watering down their own instantly identifiable sound. Treinta Días, the band's major-label debut, is more sophisticated and diverse than anything they've previously issued -- but is no less danceable. The original quartet -- vocalist La Marisoul, bassist Alex Bendaña, accordion/requinto player Pepe Carlos, and percussionist Miguel "Oso" Ramírez -- have a handful of killer session guests helping them to flesh things out here. Opener "Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles" finds La Marisoul wedding gospel to flamenco; Carlos knows that blues is what links them and builds a bridge with his accordion. He gets punchy rhythmic help from percussionist Ramírez, Bendaña, and guest Jeff Babko on B-3 (he plays vibes and trombone elsewhere here). Cumbia meets ranchera and Latin pop in the jaunty "Monedita," a track that, despite its brevity, captures all the complexities of La Marisoul's musical personality. On "Cuchara," cumbia jumps in with banda and rock & roll -- dig Andy Abad's surf guitars! Elvis Costello makes a vocal appearance on "Losing Game." His and La Marisoul's voices are perfectly balanced in this cinematic, souled-out rock and rumba groove. With its organ, electric guitars, and handclaps urging La Marisoul's deep Latin soul vocal (think Alice Russell meets Joe Bataan), "Falling" is driven by reggae and cumbia backbeats, a gospel backing chorus, and Carlos' requinto. Set closer "ICE-El Hielo" (a play on the acronym for the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is an understated, moving, and militant bossa that portrays the stresses of everyday life for the undocumented inside the U.S. La Santa Cecilia have embraced North American sounds -- rock, hip-hop, soul, blues, etc. -- grafted them onto musical traditions from the rest of the Americas without watering them down, and have created a bold, bouyant, international pop music. Treinta Días is all killer, no filler.

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