Mosaic / Music / Reviews / October 29, 2009

“Nadie es Nadie” strikes the right note

Mil i Maria, a trio of folk musicians, for lack of a better description, will soon be releasing their first album, “Nadie es Nadie.” Here at TKS, being popular in the international music community, we were given the opportunity to hear it first.

The group carries a bevy of influences, from Portuguese fado, flamenco, Caribbean music and the “grand chanson” of France. With such diverse influences, it is only natural that they would bring forth a multi-lingual album — the tracks here are sung in a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, and English — and the end result is exotic, familiar and altogether unique.

The album opens with the stellar “Eu Quero,” which serves as a perfect introduction to singer Maria del Rocio Herrera Alonso’s powerful voice. The song begins slowly, Maria’s voice plaintively wavering, but builds in strength and speed, becoming something defiant and bold. “Pantera,” which follows, is a bit harsher than the opener, though no less powerful.

At times, the production seems a bit bogged down by effects, but this is a momentary distraction at worst since the song also showcases a startling moment of sonic fury: singer Maria draws in a sharp breath near the three-minute and lets out what the label rightly describes as a “chilling howl.”

Another gem toward the end of the album is “Sao Paulo.” The track is more electric in its instrumentation than the other songs on the album, but it serves here to hint at an energetic anger, the sort that puts the feet to dancing.

Among the album’s lighter tracks is the bouncy and playful “Na Varanda.” The chorus is a joyful harmony that cannot help but bring a smile to the listener’s face. The remarkable pace set by the singer creates a rolling sensation when contrasted with the contentedly slower instrumentation. It is upbeat without being sickeningly cheerful, the perfect tune for driving with the windows down and the volume up.

Similarly, “Ta Na Rua” contains that same simple joyfulness that stands in stark contrast with the slower, more sorrowful tracks that mark much of the album. The song is a bubbly affair, with lighthearted flutes and effervescent vocals that had me trying to sing along despite the fact that I can’t speak the language at all.

Despite the number of great tracks on the album, it can’t all be gold. The third song on the work, “Vivo en Penumbra,” is an example of this. Weighing in at nine minutes, it feels as though perhaps only the first third of that is really necessary. After that three–minute mark, there is a chunk of silence after which the song picks up again, but when it does so, it plods along with all the speed of a snail, and this ultimately detracts from those first three minutes.

“NYC,” the only English song on the album, is not a bad little tune, but it does have some flaws. At a few points, the vocalist’s impressive range is pushed to its lowest limits, and it shows.

Lyrically, the song is nothing special, and occasionally borders on the cliché. Lines like, “I am not a number, I’m a human being,” are the worst offenders, having been covered by many others and in better wording, though this can perhaps be forgiven, since English is not the band’s native language.

All things considered, however, “Nadie es Nadie” is a remarkable record by a refreshingly original group, and well worth the time to find and listen to.

Dan Dyrda

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