13 July 2009


I thought I would do something a bit different. Living in the States, a country that geographically is so expansive, language is something that is often taken for granted. There is an attitude that “everyone” speaks English, and if they don’t, they should. (I am sure that the US is not the only country that has this mentality.) But if you lived in the middle of Europe, where countries are the size of American states, there is a different thinking and acceptance of different languages, seen in the fact that Europeans typically speak multiple languages. I bring this point to the forefront because it goes to explain why the American pop / mainstream airwaves are dominated by English speaking musicians and entertainers. We are one of those countries, unlike France, Germany, or Netherlands, where music from other “non-domestic” language origins does not chart. I thank my mother that she made me learn Spanish from a young age, to the point that I feel as comfortable with my mother’s tongue as that of my national origin. It has led me to appreciate literature and music that are not produced in English. In fact, I have come to enjoy not just Spanish artists, but also music from all over the world – but right now I would like to look at one band only – Amaral. This is an amazing band, I hope I spark enough curiosity in the band for some people to take the plunge and explore.

Photograph from Amaral's MySpace.

Out of Zaragoza, Espana (Spain), Amaral is the duo of Eva Amaral (vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, and namesake of the band) and Juan Vicente Garcia Aguirre (Juan Aguirre for short, guitarist and songwriter). Their influences span a range of different musical genres, which is apparent in their music: British pop and rock, Latin music from salsa to Mexican folk, and synth/electropop to name a few. From obscurity to global recognition, they have supported Bob Dylan and Lenny Kravitz, and in 2008 Amaral shared the stage at the 46664 Foundation benefit concert, held at Hyde Park, with Queen and Paul Rodgers, Annie Lennox, Sugarbabes, Amy Winehouse, and Razorlight.

What do they sound like? They are chameleons. Album to album, their sound has matured and become more and more complex. Within each album, the range of music can go from acoustic folk to electronic dance. These two have no qualms or hesitations about writing the music they want to write, to jump from one genre to another, yet consistently do it with sophistication, sound craftsmanship, and incredible intricacies in their arrangements. Lyrically (all lyrical translations done by me), they range from the mundane, everyday, straightforward sort of writing to highly poetic language. Just as musically there is a morphology to be dissected, lyrically there is also that same thrill that one does not know what to expect. With a new album in the works, the sky is the limit for this band.

Just a note, as anyone who speaks more than one language or taken a foreign language in high school or college, many things just don’t translate well. What is highly poetic and figurative in English may be base in Spanish, and vice versa. For example, “You are my sunshine” is not cute in Spanish (or even used as far as I know). On the flip side, in English we would say “Nice to meet you,” but in Spanish you say “Encantado,” literally “enchanted.” So when reading through some of the translated lyrics, keep in mind that they come from Spanish. One other note, that may perhaps encourage some people to learn a bit of Spanish, cursing is Spanish is much more fun than English.

“Amaral” (1998)

The album immediately solidified Amaral in the Spanish music scene, while ears started to perk in Latin America. This was not a straightforward, expected sound out of Spain in 1998. The incorporation of Anglo-musical influences permeates every song. Included in the collection is “Dile a la rabia” [“Tell It to the Rage”] (translation: “Tell the rage to stay behind, between the fog and the traffic noise, next to the stones that have harden us…”), can easily fit along sing the current trip-hop of its day, with ambient keyboards reminiscent of the post-punk rockers. Also, the lead single, “Rosita” [“Little Rose”] is a treat. Definitely more in line with a Smiths-esque type of guitar playing, the song is the antithesis of the emotionally laden “Dile a la rabia.” “Un dia mas” [“One More Day’], easily my favorite on the album, is a mantra for facing another day, a mantra of seeing the wonders of life and joys that it brings.

Track Listing:
1. Rosita [Little Rose]
2. Un dia mas [One More Day]
3. Voy a acabar contigo [I’m Going to Finish with You; or I Am Done with You]
4. Cara a cara [Face to Face]
5. Tardes [Afternoons]
6. No existen los milagros [Miracles Do Not Exist]
7. Lo quiero oir de tu boca [Literally, I Want to Hear It in Your Mouth; figuratively, I Want to Hear You Say It]
8. Habla [Speak]
9. 1997
10. Dile a la rabia [Tell It to the Rage]
11. Soy lo que Soy [I Am What I Am]
12. No se que hacer con mi vida [I Don’t Know What to Do with My Life]
13. Mercado negro [Black Market]

Here are the video for “Rosita” and “Voy a acabar contingo” from the canalgrupos YouTube Channel.

Eva Amaral, photograph from Amaral's MySpace.

“Una pequena parte del mundo” (2000) [“A Small Part of the World”]

Recording their second album in London, twelve of the thirteen tracks are written by Amaral, as they included a cover of Cecilia’s (born Evangelina Sobredo Galanes) “Nada de Nada” [“Nothing At All”]. This album is no sophomore slumps, easily outselling their debut album. The album in general is a slower tempo than the debut, and more acoustic. Even with a title like “Cabecita loca” [“Crazy Little Head”], the music is sedate, emotive, and relaxing: translation, “You called me crazy little head for following my dreams, for breaking the waves. I’ll defend myself with my broken wings against the current, fly…” The album ends with “El final” [“The End"], a touching admission of the heart: translation, “Life is not the same without you, without you life is meaningless. Why should I continue when at the end of it all I will never find you.” The music is best described as cute, with wind chimes in the background (among other sound effects), which belies the lyrical content - irony of sort.

Track Listing:
1. Subamos al cielo [Rise to the Heavens]
2. Cabecita loca [Crazy Little Head]
3. Como hablar [How to Speak]
4. Los aviones no pueden volar [The Airplanes Can’t Fly]
5. Queda el silencio [The Silence Remains]
6. Una pequena parte del mundo [A Small Part of the World]
7. Botas de terciopelo [Velvet Boots]
8. Volveras la suerte [Luck Will Return]
9. El dia de ano nuevo [New Year’s Day]
10. El mundo al reves [Upside Down World]
11. Siento que te extrano [I Feel That I Miss You]
12. Nada de nada [Literally, Nothing of Nothing; Figuratively, Nothing At All] – cover, original by Cecilia
13. El final [The End]

Here are the videos for “Como Hablar” from the canalgrupos YouTube Channel.

“Estrella de Mar” (2002) [“Starfish”]

If I was forced to rank my top twenty favorite albums of all time, I would have to place this one on it – hell, it would make top 10. This album has it all – sultry ballets, danceable beats, head bobbing rock, folky ditties, and poetry. Again returning to London to record the album, this was the album that screamed out “Amaral is here.” Selling over a million copies in Spain alone and breaking a few records, Amaral garnished the global attention from critics and audiences. I would invest in the Latin American edition, even if you have to import it at a pricey cost. To hear Eva Amaral and Beto Cuevas sing a duet version of “Te Necisito” [“I Need You"] is an experience you will never forget. But the song that still haunts me on this album after all these years is “En un solo sequendo” [“In Just a Second”]. This is a song of epic proportions. I am temped to translate all of the lyrics, the sheer poetic genius of the song, but here is just a sample: “Outside the wind blows, outside it rains, a frightening howl, but a whisper surrounds us, it embraces us slowly, like a mantra we both know. It is not a ghost, it is my sprit that speaks; it enters your dreams and from a distance screams that I love you. In just a second, I have realized what’s important and what’s not – the end of the world, the storm (a play on words, as it also means “torment”), and hurt are so far away from this room… I want to kiss you, but I am scared that I will wake you…” The song starts very slowly, with sound effects, but the beat drops as the second verse (where the above lyrics come in) starts. As the beat kicks in, and the guitar start to aggressively come in, keyboards bring an ambient and emotive edge, while Eva’s voice oscillates somewhere between anger and despair.

Note, the first cover is the European, the second the Latin and North American.

Track Listing:
1. Sin ti no soy nada [Without You I’m Nothing]
2. Moriria por vos [I Would Die for You]
3. Toda la noche en la calle [Out All Night on the Streets]
4. Te necesito [I Need You]
5. Que Sera? [What Will Be?]
6. Salir corriendo [To Leave Running]
7. Estrella de mar [Literatlly, Sea Star; figuratively Starfish]
8. Rosa de la paz [Peace Rose]
9. No sabe donde va [She Doesn’t Know Where She Is Going]
10. De la noche a la manana [Literally, From Night to Morning; figuratively, Overnight]
11. El centro de mis ojos [The Center of My Eyes]
12 En un solo segundo [In Just a Second]
Bonus Tracks for Latin American and North American Editions
13. Te Necesito – sung as duet with Beto Cuevas
14. Sin ti no soy nada – acoustic
15. Moriria por vos – acoustic
16. En un solo segundo – acoustic

Here are the videos for “Te Necesito” (the first the original, the second the duet with Beto Cuevas) and “Toda la noche en la calle.” The first and third from the canalgrupos YouTube Channel. The duet from the Ligaproducciones YouTube Channel.

Juan Aguirre, photograph from Amaral's MySpace.

“Parajos en la cabeza” (2005) [“Birds in the Head”]

Recording this album in the famous Eden Studios of London, “Parajos en la cabeza” [“Birds in the Head”] garnishes the same critical acclaim as the prior album in Spain, as well as Latin America. This album is quickly canonized as one of the best Latin Rock albums of all time. The album does receive positive critical reception in other markets, leading Moby and Amaral to collaborate eventually. This album opens with “El universo sobre mi” [“The Universe Over Me”], which is driven by some of the best strumming of an acoustic guitar. Lyrically, again Amaral offers up an anthem/mantra: translation, “I want to live, I want to scream, I want to feel the universe over me. I want to know what it is to be free, I want to find my place [in the universe].” Amaral owns this theme of living life on your own term in Latin Rock. My favorite track on the album is the dramatic “En el rio” [“In the River”]: a song that speaks of dreams, of seeing her father and swimming the river until reaching the ocean – incredible imagery of being born and slowly immersing yourself in life, the world. Again, beautiful strumming, but what makes the songs are the string arrangements. They highlight the emotional highs and “highers.”

Track Listing:
1. El universo sobre mi [The Universe Over Me]
2. Dias de verano [Summer Days]
3. Revolucion [Revolutions]
4. Mi alma perdida [My Lost Soul]
5. Marta, Sebas, Guille y los demas [Marta, Sebas, Guille, and the Others – the later two are names with no English equivalents]
6. Esta madrugada [This Early Morning]
7. Big Bang
8. Enamorada [In Love]
9. Tarde papa cambiar [Too Late to Change]
10. En el rio [In the River]
11. Resurreccion [Resurrection]
12. Confiar en alguien [To Trust Someone]
13. Salta [Jump]
14. No soy como tu [I’m Not Like You]
15. Si tu no Vuelves [If You Don’t Come Back] – Mexican edition

Here are the videos for “El universo sobre mi” from the canalgrupos YouTube Channel, and the link for “Marta, Sebas, Guille y los demas” from the emimusic YouTube Channel.

Link: “Marta, Sebas, Guille y los demas”

“Gato negro. Dragon Rojo” (2008) [“Black Cat. Red Dragon”]

Amaral does the unspeakable in today’s musical market: in 2008 they release a double album. And yet, it manages to be a top 40 World Chart album. The first disc of the double is referred to as “Gato Negro” [“Black Cat”], and the second as “Dragon Rojo” [“Red Dragon”]. Released in various formats, including a USB drive, the album was recorded in part in London, but for the first time, Amaral also recorded in New York. Staying closer to a standard rock format than their prior albums, there are few songs that will catch you by complete surprise. For example, “Alerta” [“Alarm”] incorporates elements of ska, with cutting, critical lyrics like, “Sleeping princess, in an empty castle…” Another surprise on the album was Juan Aguirre singing lead vocals on “Es solo una cancion” [“It’s Only a Song”]. The double album closes with “Concorde” – named after the supersonic jet that was decommissioned. A slow paced tempo, lacking any sustained use of snares, the song relies heavily on arpeggios and the emotive quality of Eva Amaral’s voice: translation, “Nothing will ever be the same, it is the end of innocence; you will no longer be able to fly the Concorde over our heads.” A song that just ends, as abruptly as it began, it leaves you with a feeling of being haunted.

Track Listing:
Disc One: “Gato negro” [“Black Cat”]
1. Kamikaze
2. Tarde de domingo rara [Strange Sunday Afternoon]
3. La barrera del sonido [The Sound Barrier]
4. Las chicas de mi barrio [The Girls of My Neighborhood]
5. Esta Noche [Tonight]
6. Las Puertas del Infierno [The Gates of Hell]
7. Biarritz
8. Gato Negro [“Black Cat’]
9. Rock & Roll
Disc Two: “Dragon rojo” [“Red Dragon’]
1. Perdoname [Forgive Me]
2. Alerta [Alarm]
3. El blues de la generacion perdida [Lost Generation Blues]
4. De carne y hueso [Literally, Of Flesh and Bones; figuratively, Flesh and Blood]
5. Dragon rojo [Red Dragon]
6. Es solo una cancion [It’s Only One Song]
7. El artista del alambre [The Artist of the Wire]
8. Deprisa [Fast, or Quickly]
9. Doce palabras [Twelve Words]
10. Concorde
11. El artista del alambre, acoustic – iTunes Edition

Here is the link for “Kamikaze” from the GatoramaTV YouTube Channel.

Bonus time – here is Amaral’s “Llegara la tormenta” from the aragonmusical YouTube Channel. It is a cover of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.”

Keep up with Amaral at their homepage and MySpace (does not seem heavily used).

Take the plunge if you do not speak Spanish and take a listen, you might find yourself impressed. And if you do understand Spanish, not only will you hear some great music, but also the poetry of this band will blow you away. And with a new album on the way, this may be the best time to start catching up with Amaral.


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