With a deft instrumental touch and evocative vocals, Portland quintet Rare Monk wends its way …
2016 has been pretty grim, but there were also some really bright spots. Y La Bamba’s fourth full-length, Ojos Del Sol, is one such bright spot. Imbued with memory, lead singer and driving creative force Luz Elena Mendoza gives listeners 11 soulful glimpses of faith, life and family as she has experienced them.
Ojos Del Sol digs deep; Mendoza’s melodic guitar parts are laid bare, and her voice is an instrument unto itself. “Ostrich” and “Atmosphere” see Mendoza using her upper register to blend her vocals seamlessly into stripped-down rhythms and simple melodies. Paired with lyrics that question faith, mortality, and the ultimate fragility of life around us, this release creates a bridge between beauty and somber reflection.
Mendoza’s newfound voice can be partially attributed to an exploration of multicultural musical genres in the last year and a collaboration with Sergio Mendoza, culminating in the release of Los Hijos De La Montaña in 2015. All that said, it seems that it’s the personal connection Mendoza has to these songs that make this album truly special. She has said herself that Ojos Del Sol is “a celebration of family and community.” The tenderness of that thought, and the care taken in every song and aching note, prove her right.
– Sarah Eaton
EDITOR’S NOTE: This album was selected as one of our 11 favorite Portland albums of 2016. Jump to the other year-end selections below.