Personnel: Mohamed Soulimane (violin); Alberto Carrera (flute); Albert Cruz (trumpet).
Recording information: G.D.M., Villanova I La Geltru; High Grain, Sant Feliu De Llobregat; Madrid, Spain.
Arranger: Mohamed Soulimane.
Romancero is the 2009 debut from La Bien Querida, the earthy, summery, indie pop vehicle for singer/songwriter Ana Fernandez-Villaverde, who garnered some attention in the Spanish indie circuit in 2008 when she won Mondo Sonoro magazine's demo contest. Fernandez-Villaverde has an icy-smooth voice, one that brings to mind the Charade's Ingela Mattson and Postmarks' Tim Yehezkely. On second thought, Fernandez-Villaverde is even frostier than those two -- she often sounds austere, disinterested, and at times even a little bored. This might just be a matter of juxtaposition; on Romancero, Fernandez-Villaverde is more often than not surrounded by summery instrumentation: glimmering flamenco-tinged guitar work, earthy hand drums, and glowing flutes and trumpets. It's a striking contrast to her otherwise chilly voice, and when this approach works, it results in the kind of bittersweet, quietly effervescent indie pop in the vein of California Snow Story and Club 8. "De Momento Abril" is the one track where all of these things really fall into place -- it's subtly hooky, full of nostalgic string arrangements and piano flourishes, and to top it all off, Fernandez-Villaverde sounds genuinely warm and wistful. This can't be said for much of the rest of Romancero, unfortunately, and it often sounds like Fernandez-Villaverde's frosty approach belongs on a different album. This is especially apparent on "9.6," but granted, it's an odd duck, seeing how it's Romancero's lone electronic dance offering. That said, Fernandez-Villaverde's chilly vocals sound right at home on this song -- she sounds warm and tender compared to all those swirling synths. It's the kind of thing that makes you wonder if it wouldn't have been better if she'd just taken the plunge and made an electronic album. ~ Margaret Reges