Things start off theatrically in Torreblanca’s latest, El Polvo en la Luz. “1000 Fantasmas,” the lavish opener, also kicked off the album’s promotional efforts, giving listeners and longtime Torreblanca faithfuls proof that the band hadn’t lost their pop anthem touch. Listening to El Polvo en la Luz in its entirety, proof of their mastery is even greater.
El Polvo en la Luz is Torreblanca’s second outing, the follow up to 2010’s Bella Época, an album that introduced us all to the songwriting and singing prowess of Juan Manuel Torreblanca. Torreblanca’s voice holds so many identities—breathy, manic, solemn, joyful—that the vocal melodies always feel new, honest, and surprising. He is affected, and so we can’t help but be affected as well.
To say El Polvo en la Luz is a better album than Bella Época is an understatement. It’s a much more confident, cohesive effort that resists the traditional verse-chorus format and universally cliché lyrics in favor of flourishes, a-tempo shifts, and genre mingling. The true scene stealers of the show are the ballads. “Vertientes” keeps a measured temperament until it boils over into grand chorus, while “Indestructibles” and “Queda” are so simply gorgeous I might burst into tears if I keep talking about them. These are the types of ballads that help you through things—break ups, deaths, general ennui. I found myself turning to this album for comfort, for that mixture of self indulgence and healing.
Even though the softer songs take center stage, Torreblanca’s sense of campy musical theatre still comes through effectively in songs like “Como un amigo,” which is sing-along-ready off the bat; charmingly over-stuffed “Sabotaje;” and the funk-punctuated, falsetto’d “Vapor.” The only track that doesn’t rise to the occasion is “Culpables e Inocentes,” remaining in the realm of cute choruses and uninspired assemblage. But stick around during the last track—sweetly sung by member Natalie Reyes—for a delightful, surprisingly poignant carnival closer.
R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck guests on a few tracks, while Héctor Castillo—currently making music as MASA with Brazilian Girls’ Didi Gutman—was in charge of the overall production. El Polvo en la Luz is out now via Nacional Records and Arts & Crafts MX.