Note: NPR’s First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.
For the Portland, Ore., band Y La Bamba, creativity and talent have combined and crystalized to form a unique sound. That sound is the sum of many individual musical experiences and influences, but it also reflects a shared vision. Most importantly, on the new Ojos Del Sol, it sounds as if the group is having a blast playing music.
The biggest step forward on the new record lies in how Y La Bamba uses Luz Elena Mendoza’s voice: It’s employed like a musical instrument, as part of an ensemble sound. That may sound easy, but it’s difficult to pull off. Singing delicately in her upper register, she seems enmeshed in the instrumental arrangements, which gives her bicultural storytelling an almost otherworldly feel.