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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tuesday Is For Tunes: Alex Cuba

A notification from the editor: the Tuesday Is For Tunes series will suspend regular publication for the summer while Sachi Subterranean drives around the country. Updates will be posted sporadically, time and material permitting. Party on, dudes.


I wish I knew Spanish right now. I really need to know the meaning behind Alex Cuba’s muy caliente sounding lyrics. If they’re as silver tongued as the throat that issued them, then fathers need to lock up their daughters before they hear the new self-titled album from Alex Cuba. Thanks to the First Listen series on NPR Music you can hear the album in its entirety from now until its release date, June 8th. Goodness, can I blame my swooning on the heat wave?

Alex Cuba writes songs that inject a heavy dose of jazz, funk, soul, and 70s pop into the Latin music he grew up listening to in Cuba. He lives in British Columbia now, though it’s a little hard to picture such warm sounds coming from a land of perennial rains. His new self-title is his third full length, and I’m a little sad that I didn’t discover him sooner. His first two albums both won Juno Awards. This album is lush and dynamic. It would have been the perfect soundtrack for my trip to Miami last month, driving through the city to the beach in my friend Alex’s convertible.

My favorite tracks are the ones that demand dancing, like If You Give Me Love (the only track in English), Caballo, and Tierra Colora. The baseline in If You Give Me Love especially makes my backbone slip and pelvic thrust. But, I also really appreciate the songs that slow down to a very pensive pace, such as Solo Tu and Contradicciones. These acoustic tracks allow Alex Cuba’s talented guitar playing to really shine, and keep the album from being merely party music. There are also a few exceptionally smooth pop songs in the mix, which don’t appeal to me so much. Still, they are well written, and a perfect introduction to a new genre for more timid listeners.

There are a lot of jam bands out there trying to grasp a bit of that world fusion flavor, but Alex Cuba is the real deal, and it certainly sounds like he does it effortlessly. His music reminds me of a fine blend of Raphael Saadiq and Manu Chao with rhythms more by way of Fela Kuti. It’s really all kinds of lovely. Alex Cuba has more experience, skills, and heart than any musician I’ve come across in awhile, and it is undeniably expressed in his music. You should definitely check his new album while it’s available for free from NPR Music. Or, get to know his background and philosophy a little better through this video.
First Listen: Alex Cuba, 'Alex Cuba' by Jasmine Garsd

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