The first thing you will notice about Julieta Venegas‘ new album, Algo Sucede (Something’s Happening), is how upbeat it sounds. Opening with the sounds of a buoyant, airy synth like something out of 1980s new wave, her seventh solo album immediately lets us know this album is not going to be anything like the more contemplative, sometimes somber 2013 album Los Momentos (Moments). Though that album was another excellent display of Venegas’ song craft, presenting a strong woman coming to terms with the end of a meaningful relationship, Algo Sucede is an album that feels luminous, filled with a loving look at the past and a hopeful glance to the future.
“Ese Camino” (“That Road”), the album’s first single released in May, celebrates childhood and how that time in development marks the beginning of a personality that — at its core — remains similar throughout life but it is also marked by one’s own personal history. The tune itself transports us to Julieta’s northern Mexico roots, a Tijuana native who has successfully mixed traditional sounds, like accordion and horns, with modern pop and rock elements enveloped in an up-beat twee vibe.
Another fun track is “Esperaba” (“Waiting”), the album’s opening track, which talks about growing up in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s, listening to Argentine rocker Charly García and dreaming about all the possibilities that world has to offer. Indeed, the song is filled with that anxious, hopeful energy that one has as a teenager beaming with ideas and waiting to jump into a new life, one created by oneself. The song’s synth melodies give way to driving guitar lines and rhythms, including hand claps, and brilliantly sets the album’s bright mood.
If there’s any doubt Venegas has moved on, there’s “Buenas noches, desolación” (“Good Night, Bleakness”), which casts away negativity following a bout of depression. The upbeat, festive song offers a close to all that drags one down to the dumps, and literally puts desolation to bed. It’s a song of hope that marks a new beginning to an unknown destination with eyes bright and wide open.
The album is also about finding love and enjoying it as it is, without big demands or pressures. The track “Algo Sucede” explores those emotions we encounter as we begin to fall in love. The instant when we know that “something is happening” as marked by those subtle changes that maybe others are unaware of, but we can feel deep inside, like a change in the tone of voice or changing breathing patterns. The song is an open invitation to get to know one another without changing one’s essence and without hiding certain traits. In the same vein, the delicate, piano-driven “Todo Está Aquí” (“It’s All Here”) offers a love that is present and for the taking today; a love that may make promises it cannot keep for an idealized future. Venegas seems to celebrate the simplicity of giving oneself to the present happiness, without thinking of what comes next.
Though love and relationships are a focal point of Algo Sucede, it wouldn’t be a complete Venegas album without a politically conscious track. Disguised as a perky pop song, “Explosión” (“Explosion”) makes serious demands for those who have disappeared, left to be forgotten without an investigation. They are the faceless crowd that falls victim to everyday violence, something all too familiar for those living in her native Mexico. The song raises awareness and invites the listener to feel the same rage and empathy for those who are victimized, as it could be us one day. You can here the track below:
Venegas has always conjured a wonderful balance between her traditional sound and contemporary alternative rock. Her strong accordion playing is still present on many songs, but it never dominates the album. She spaces out keyboard-driven songs with those featuring the accordion. Some are brilliantly combined, like the album’s title track, which opens with a catchy accordion melody, followed by a bass hook, and flows on a motorik beat decorated with a sparkling trickle of electronic harpsichord and airy synth chords.
The album is a return to the style that made Venegas popular, a singer/songwriter known for a unique sound that melds traditional Mexican sounds with more contemporary songwriting and rock rhythms. The tracks on Algo Sucede fit neatly into the repertoire that made her an internationally known artist, with hit tracks like “Limon y Sal,” “Me Voy,” “Algo Esta Cambiando” and “De Mis Pasos,” to name a few. Algo Sucede also marks an opportunity to see this brilliant singer live, her tour dates — so far — can be found here: www.julietavenegas.net/tour-dates.
All images are courtesy of Sony Music, who also provided a preview stream for the album last month for the purpose of this review. We were also invited to attend her performance in Miami at the Flamingo Theater in Downtown Miami, earlier this month, where she previewed some these songs live alongside her hits for Terra Live Music. You can watch the entire show below: