Back in 2013, an up-and-coming duo called Marineros shared their debut single “Espero,” and started getting attention both in and outside of their native Chile. That song is an accurate representation of the sound and mood the band would craft in their later output: pristine production, memorable vocal melodies, programmed beats, and precise guitar work. These elements come together and coalesce into timeless pop songs. After two years and five singles, they finally present O Marineros, their first album.
But they didn’t do it alone. Cristián Heyne, the now-legendary Chilean producer behind Gepe and Dënver masterpieces, among many others, co-produced the album with the band’s own Soledad Puentes. They reflected on the creative process and collaboration in a recent interview. “Our relationship with Cristián has been very good since the day we met. He likes our songs; that was the best way to start. He’s a great producer; we understand each other very well. From the beginning, he made us have enough confidence to move forward and continue working until we found a sound we liked.” That’s exactly why they had no rush, taking the time to slow-cook their ideas.
O Marineros starts off with one of their most successful moments to date, “El Lado Oscuro de tu Corazón.” Its melodies, especially in the chorus, are what make the song an instant hit, one that would appeal to mainstream audiences everywhere. But it’s the production work that takes the song to an unexpected and more intricate place. The subtlety of the instrumentation and the detailed work on the percussion fills are delightful, and even though Constanza “Cer” Espina‘s voice is the protagonist here, it also showcases Puente’s guitars as the co-stars, a creative choice that persists throughout the whole album.
Overall, the themes in the 10 songs here are diverse, but they gravitate towards love in different contexts. It shifts from passionate intimacy – like “Secretos,” Marineros’ most rocking moment, featuring big, distorted guitars and a steady rock beat – to multi-dimensional and larger-than-life territory, like romantic dream-pop number “Montañas.” The song is embellished by pads of vocal harmonies, castanets, and tambourine accents. Nostalgia-packed “Submarino,” on the other hand, finds them dealing with grief and closure, but always “howling” for the ones they lost.
“Es un mundo sucio, quizás tenga que ensuciarte las manos/es un mundo grande, quizás te sentirás como un gusano,” Cer croons on the bridge of “Soledad,” a lush song in the vein of great 90s indie bands like Galaxie 500. It explores what it’s like to find shelter in love, especially in a painful and twisted world. “Oh Oh” delivers tons of attitude, with half-spoken vocals and a slightly funky groove, balanced out by hypnotic, 80s-tinted guitar riffs.
Even though their influences are varied, this is undoubtedly a pop record, and they embrace that all the way. “We’re very attracted to pop music. We’re attracted by its simplicity, its direct way of saying things, its repetitions, its hi-fi sonority, and how easy it gets to ears and hearts. And to say ‘easy’ doesn’t mean it’s weak. On the contrary: there’s complexity in creating pop music; there’s a whole studio behind it.” In an attempt to describe their affinity for the genre, they ended up describing their music perfectly. There’s a line in “Sueños” that declares, “el amor no es como dicen que el amor es.” But that didn’t stop them from sharing their vision of love all over O Marineros.