Gaby Moreno's newest album, "Postales" was a lucky discovery I made a few days ago via Spotify recommendations. A soulful Guatemalan singer, Moreno channels the late Amy Winehouse with some of the most powerful vocals I've heard this year.
The album opens with single "No Estoy Tan Mal" which translates to something; honestly, I hardly speak a lick of Spanish, and my comprehension mostly consists of individual words and short phrases (Hola, amigo.). In fact, it's entirely possible that these lyrics are God-awful; fortunately for me, I can't tell in the least. I'll just assume she's a natural Shakespeare. Anyways, "No Estoy Tan Mal" is a soulful workout that gets things started on the right foot. Moreno's vocals soar over a tricky little guitar part and some nifty horns that give not only this song, but this entire album, that distinct Latin flavor. Early on, the album experiences a few of its weaker moments with songs like "Tranvia" and "Valle de Magnolias" coming off as slightly derivative (though I'm not certain what they'd be derivative of. I'm not exactly well-versed in Hispanic Soul Music); however, the pace picks back up again with "Ave que Emigra", a folkish tune with a pleasant beat and rural guitar leads. And the stylistic changes keep on coming. "Blues de Mar" gives us a nice waltz while "Juegos y Miedo" has a sort of psychedelic appeal.
The two highlights come near album's end with the fiercely Latin "El Sombreron", both the album's loudest and quietest tune, and quite a shock to the system; it brings to mind Spanish matador fights a la the sound of the Paso Doble. The other key track is "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas", a Danger Mouse-esque indie tune with, once again, a distinctly Latin flavor. It's hushed tones suggest a more fiery Norah Jones (in the best possible way).
Overall, I had few qualms with this album, but they're present nonetheless. Some of the songs slip into basic figures with simple strums and pedantic drum beats and the closing song, "No Soy el Aire" is an underwhelming finish. Otherwise, though, "Postales" is a remarkable album and a bit of a dark horse for me this year. Better than much of the American and British music I've heard in 2012 and definitely a contender for my top 10 come year's end.