I still remember the first song I heard from Fernando Milagros. It was “Reina Japonesa” from his sophomore album Por Su Atención Gracias, and it was the perfect blend of grit and bittersweet emotion. Years later (and a record later for him), I still can’t get that song out of my head. But even if the bare, acoustic version of Fernando Milagros will always win for some of us, it’s nice to see an artist’s style evolve as much as his has. For his third album, 2011’s San Sebastián, he enlisted famed producer Cristian Heyne (Dënver, Gepe, Javiera Mena) who helped him retain his folk-meets-Andean sound, but with a pop rock twist. Now, Milagros has come back stronger and different with the first single off his new record Nuevo Sol, “Otra Vida.”
While Milagros retains the raw folk guitar and the strong, emotional delivery that’s characterized his sound and his performances, “Otra Vida” features a more polished interpretation of his music. This time, he’s backed by a full band, a country-blues-inspired electric guitar lead, and some subtle synths that are more in line with the cleaner Chilean pop sound. Considering the subject matter-–warning about cosmic karma and earthly payback—the track is as danceable and sunny as they get, a huge departure from what we’re used to hearing from Milagros.
If you read some of the comments he’s gotten from fans about the track, a good sector of them is subtly criticizing Milagros for “going commercial” and I’m quite upset that that’s how the track was received. It’s a natural evolution of his sound, since it’s very difficult (but far from impossible) to keep lo-fi from going stale. Yes, the track is clean and pop friendly, which will undoubtedly attract a new breed of fans, but the essence, the bittersweet poetry and the urgency of his lyrics, are still there. That’s alright in my book, and the track is well worth a listen or two.