Argentine priestess of surrealism Juana Molina is the musical and spiritual guide we all need right now. After nearly 25 years of staggering work, more than likely you’ll be familiar with the hypnotic nature of Juana’s sound. She’s able to raise or lower your heart rate with every lick of her guitar.
With eight albums under her belt, the Argentine legend has broken ground in Latin American music by amassing an extraordinary yet largely interpretative body of work. Juana’s avant-garde resume has garnered reductive comparisons to Björk and David Byrne, but she is a unique spellcaster that has carved her own otherworldly lane. With an early style influenced by 90s alt rock, Juana soon found her calling in challenging art-house productions inspired by dreams, magic, and Argentine folklore.
Juana Molina is also known, and in some cases best remembered, for her time helming Juana y Sus Hermanas, the comedy variety hour that launched her into the public eye. Even though she had been acting since the late 80s, it was the show’s 1991 premiere that cemented her as a household name. Juana y Sus Hermanas had a short but impactful run until 1993, when the star took a hiatus in lieu of her first pregnancy. During this period she reassessed her commitment to acting, eventually giving in to the nagging allure of a career in music. Lucky for us, Juana’s life-changing epiphany has yielded an extensive and awe-inspiring catalog.
As part of a recurring new series where we look back on the legacy of some of your favorite artists, we’ll be ranking Juana Molina’s rich videography and weaving together a broader picture of her journey. Juana is no stranger to the evocative possibilities of the medium, and her collection of visual work is best described, simply, as iconic.
Juana’s latest album, 2017’s Halo, was highly inspired by the Argentine folk tale of “la luz mala,” a legend that suggests ghostly lights in the middle of the night are wandering spirits hovering over their buried bones. Hence the inspiration behind much of the album’s creepy promotional artwork featuring a femur and Juana’s eyes. The eerie Mariano Ramis-directed clip for “Lentísimo Halo” finds inspiration in the surrealist 1920s films of Man Ray and Hans Richter, delivering a grainy black-and-white short that could inspire several Slenderman urban myths.
"Lo Decidí Yo"
A simple song about the end of a relationship and learning to let go of emotional baggage is turned on its head in this surprisingly light-hearted video from 2013’s Wed21. “Lo Decidí Yo” features a series of chopped and looped clips of Juana running playfully through a forest and then superimposed over shots of highways and aerial views of the stratosphere, giving the impression of freedom and exuberance now there is nothing holding her back. Or perhaps the message is you can never outrun heartbreak. Only Juana can say for certain.
"In The Lassa"
Juana is no stranger to having her music animated, but this cute and dreamlike video produced in partnership with digital studio Opertura gives one of the stand-out tracks from Halo a colorful new retelling. “In The Lassa” is presented as a side-scrolling video game called The Jane Bone Adventures, following the title character – a sentient femur – through a fantastical realm of frog-like spirit creatures. The song will surely get you bouncing with its breakneck asymmetrical drumming and guitar picking, but the quirky and adorable clip will leave you wishing this game were available in your app store.
One of Juana’s most recognizable songs, “Un Día” is known for having the rollicking freeform energy of a runaway train. The song appears on Juana’s fifth studio album, 2008’s Un Día, and stands out for its distorted keyboard and vocal improvisations reminiscent of scatting. Juana’s label briefly circulated a low-budget promotional video prior to the album’s release, but this particularly entrancing clip is taken from a phenomenal 2010 live session on Argentine TV show Encuentro en el Estudio.
The lead single from Juana’s Wed21 album ushered in a new era of verisimilitude into her work. Directed by Mario Caporali, this terrifying yet campy video references The Phantom of the Opera, classic horror films like Eyes Without a Face, and even elements of voodoo. The song’s killer baseline makes “Eras” one of Juana’s most danceable songs, even if it’s ultimately a tale of unrequited love.
"Solo Su Voz"
Taken from Juana’s sophomore album Segundo, “Solo Su Voz” was one of six songs selected for a 2003 animated anthology called 6 Canciones. All songs were sourced from her first three albums, and though the videos were developed independently from Juana and her team, the animators were given a full blessing and access to her back catalog. The Maus and Milena Alessio-directed clip for “Solo Su Voz” follows a young girl in mourning who carries a vinyl LP wherever she goes, implicitly containing the voice of her deceased loved one. As the video progresses, a montage of her fantasy world slowly fades into heartbreaking reality.
"Solo en Sueños"
Juana’s first single – “Solo en Sueños” from 1996’s Rara – has perhaps the most traditional rock sound Molina will ever give us. Channeling her best 90s alt-rock vibes and resembling contemporaries like Alanis Morissette and The Breeders, “Solo en Sueños” shows early signs of Juana’s affinity for the conceptual. The video takes place in a flooding apartment kitchen as Juana drinks milk, has childhood flashbacks, and jams with her band. The video is peak 90s oddball dream sequence, complete with a split-screen display and bright orange plaid skirt that would make Fiona Apple jealous.
“Cososco” is one of the most riveting songs on Halo, and the accompanying video is equally trippy and thrilling. For her latest short, Juana decided to dust off the characters from her beloved variety show Juana y Sus Hermanas, marrying the dreamlike surrealism that has come to characterize much of her recent visual work with the comedy chops of her early career. The sequences are campy and bizarre, yet oddly visceral, perhaps the result of Juana’s return to familiar territory.
Witchcraft, bones, and a face full of wrinkles are the highlights from “Paraguaya,” the lead single from Halo. Co-directed by Juana Molina and Alejandro Ross, this video set the tone for much of the album’s motifs of magic and folk tales. The song and video follow the story of a witch whose love potion and incantations backfire, trapping her in a loop of unrequited love and desire. The song’s ensnaring baseline is as strong a spell as any, making “Paraguaya” one of her most magnetic songs to date.
"Sin Guia No"
Juana’s last two albums have been heavily influenced by dreams and the supernatural and perhaps the most ambitious expression of this creative direction came with her video for “Sin Guía No,” off Wed21. A cinematic journey through Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego region, the video is based on the Hain initiation ceremonies of the Selk’nam people, the land’s indigenous inhabitants. The Dr. Sepian-directed clip follows many of the ritual’s hallmarks, from the young warrior’s body painting to challenging the spirits and hunting guanacos for their marital offering. It’s a visually stunning short, with Juana taking on the role of chamana, guiding us through the transformative experience.