04 August 2011

Diego Garcia: "Laura"

On the subtle advice of a friend, I decided to enjoy my summer holiday, instead of trying to write; the advice was spot on, with days at the beach, catching up with friends, and finally having the time to listen to some old music, I finally feel relaxed and receptive. Totally recharged for the first time in weeks, I sat down yesterday to write, looking at the ever-mounting list of new albums I want to write about, and where better to start with than Diego Garcia’s “Laura” (April 12, 2011 in the USA). If his name sounds familiar, you may be thinking of Elefant, the New York City based, post-punk band that Garcia fronted. Elefant officially dissolved in June 2010, and then word spread of a Garcia solo album shortly afterward. I think the original expectation was a continuation of Elefant, following the vein of other artists who have released solo albums that are merely a continuation of their bands’ signature sound. But Diego Garcia offers a complete about-face that is disarming, embracing broodiness and acoustic arrangements woven in subtlety instead of the bass-driven post-punk of Elefant.

Diego Garcia was born in Detroit, Michigan to Argentine parents and is a graduate of Brown University. What makes “Laura” an amazing album is that this time around Garcia is embracing both traditional Latin American and Spanish music and infusing an American folk, story-telling tradition, while his post-punk roots lurk secretly in the mix. The sincerity and profoundness of “Laura,” named after his wife, is felt as much in the music as the lyrics. This is one of the few albums where music and lyrics work in such tight tandem that they become inseparable from one another. But it is not just the music or the quality and theme of the lyrics that have shifted; Garcia has revamped and restyled his singing. No more do you hear the post-punk indifference of simply carrying a tune; these songs are full of vocal melodies that are alluring and full of conviction.

Thematically, the album is obviously the musical interpretation of the journey of his relationship with his wife, capturing the woes and joys – aptly ending with “All Eyes on You,” the most upbeat song on the album. With ambient strings, a disco-esque bassline, and Latin influenced beats and guitar arrangements, the song is the perfect ending to this particular album. It is not a perfect fairy tale ending, as no relationship truly is, and the song hints at this and the anxiety about relationships (“To everything there is a beginning and end, but in between a reason we can all pretend.”) However, the song is not about the end, but rather the middle, that moment where relationships are full of potential. And it is with that feeling of ultimate potential that the album leaves you, but getting to that point is an intriguing musical journey.

The realistic look into relationships is what makes this album a stand out. There are no sugarcoated, feigned longings for wishful lullaby dreams; this album smacks of reality from beginning to end. “Inside My Heart,” with some of the most beautiful guitar arrangements on the album, captures this reality, with the conscious acknowledgment that “they” may not always be together, but “you will always live inside my heart” (the one thing we never like to admit about people who have left our lives). But every song on the album is a gem: the post-punk is faintly present in “Roses and Wine,” while “Stay” sports a very dreamy take on flamenco guitar playing. “Nothing to Hide” is the most subtle of anthems, while “Separate Lives” is flirtingly playful. Each song, though, is packed with emotional power. It may be simple to slip this album on in the background and just enjoy the sound, but, if one gives into the album with reckless abandon, the visceral journey will lead to introspection and catharsis.

Since I have started writing / posting on this blog, there has not been a single album I have reviewed that has moved me as much Diego Garcia’s “Laura.” From the musical arrangements to the emotionally laden crooning, there is something about this album that makes it moving, alluring, and arresting: sincerity. Unlike so many albums that are based on feigned feelings, and others on highly dramatized representations of artists’ true feelings, this album’s sincerity captures the imagination in a way that I have not felt in a very long time. Diego Garcia’s “Laura” is the biggest surprise of the year - the biggest since I started writing this blog - give this album a serious listen.

Track Listing:
1. Inside My Heart
2. You Were Never There
3. Nothing to Hide
4. Roses and Wine
5. Separate Lives
6. Laura
7. Under This Spell
8. Stay
9. All Eyes on You

Keep up with Diego Garcia at his homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is the video for “You Were Never There” from the diegogarciatv YouTube Channel.

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