I think I’m in love with Natalia Lafourcade. It’s been a long time coming since I first saw the video of her 2017 hit “Tú sí sabes quererme.” Intrigued, I went on a long dive into her discography, mostly consisting of poppy but excellently produced soft rock whose sheer sweetness called back memories of listening to Belle and Sebastian for the first time. Musas: Volume 1 arrived late last year to make things even worse, and before long, she was breaking my heart on the stage of the 90th Academy Awards as she performed the stunning “Remember Me.” Musas: Volume 2, her latest album, quite simply outdid all of her previous work and melted my soul.
Musas is a rare album that manages to be sweet without descending into a state of being cheaply saccharine. Produced in collaboration with a group of musicians known as Los Macorinos, it is a modern reinterpretation of Latin folk that Lafourcade describes as her musical and cultural roots. It is refreshingly intimate and casual while also respecting its influences with tight, meticulously arranged instrumentation.
“Danza de Gardenias” begins the album on an upbeat, energetic note. It is one of the fuller cuts on the album, with a variety of percussion and brass solos on top of the traditional acoustic guitar accompaniments. While Lafourcade’s voice isn’t the most technically skilled or one with the highest range, she can still pull off the powerful vocals required in a song such as “Danza de Gardenias.” She truly excels, however, at slightly more subdued yet playful tracks such as “Duerme Negrito.” A reinterpretation of a popular lullaby, the song features a rhythmic backing of soft, staccato acoustic guitars and Lafourcade at her most entertaining. Even the most stone-faced of listeners will find it difficult to resist busting out a small jig and stupidly grinning while Lafourcade gently admonishes her subject.
“La Llorona” continues the theme of Lafourcade revisiting cultural artifacts while taking a break from the slightly more upbeat nature of the rest of the album. She tells the story of the titular character, a ghost of a beautiful woman who drowned her own children and spends the rest of eternity looking for them in lakes and rivers, all while wailing and causing misfortune to those around her. In a beautifully haunting retelling of the famous legend, Lafourcade sings, “No sé qué tienen las flores, Llorona / Las flores de un camposanto” (“I don’t know what’s in the flowers / the flowers in a graveyard”).
“Desdeñosa (En Mano de Los Macorinos)” lifts the mood immediately after. It is the only track on the album with guest features, and in this case, two huge figures of Latin music: the Cuban singer Omara Portuondo, a member of the legendary band Buena Vista Social Club, and Eugenia León, a Mexican singer. They trade gorgeous verses addressed to a girl who is “tan linda como desdeñosa” (“as beautiful as disdainful”).
Musas is an incredibly creative and masterfully arranged homage to Natalia Lafourcade’s musical roots. From the opening chords of “Danza de Gardenias,” one can tell that it, as Natalia Lafourcade herself describes, is a project of passion. It reminds us why Lafourcade has rightfully cemented herself as one of the most prolific figures in Latin pop today.