Recommend if you like: Esperanza Spalding, Erykah Badu, rock music and you want to branch out
Expectation: The second album from alternative musician, Xenia Rubinos, delivers a unique blend of rock, jazz, soul, hip-hop, and Latin music that at its best feels completely natural.
- Don’t Wanna Be – An immediately intriguing opener, where Rubinos explores a jazzy take on R&B over instrumentation that seems ready to burst into wild exuberance the moment she lets it.
- Mexican Chef – A very rock guitar tone leads the way of another indescribable composition, this time sporting strong Latin influences in melody and rhythm.
- Black Stars – The harmonies here sound great, I love the whole chorus, and the structure of the song emphasizes the blend of styles very well. Also, the drum tone sounds amazing, and the fuzzy bass was a cool touch.
- Just Like I – Opening with a vocal hook that could be taken straight from a country song, Rubinos makes it clear that there is a lot going on here and she wants to make sure we notice. The rest of song is a maze of contradictory musical ideas that somehow shape into a rock song, and its fantastic.
- Right? – Another really cool song, mostly playing with a similar mix of jazz, rock, and R&B as other tracks.
- Lonely Lover – One of the more pop-oriented melodies here, with a bit simpler accompaniment, but still a very nice song, proving Rubinos chooses to experiment, rather than using it as a crutch.
- Laugh Clown – A very R&B track, bearing an undeniable resemblance to Erykah Badu, but fantastically executed.
- I Won’t Say – Rubinos tries her hand at rapping, opting for a spoken word style that shows off her witty lyricism. The chorus is full of tongue-in-cheek swagger over a jazzy swing, and the entire song is just full of life.
- See Them – My least favorite track on the album, if only because the elements don’t blend here at all, instead feeling lopsided and unpolished.
- How Strange It Is – I wish the album could reach more of a conclusion instead of just ending abruptly, but this is still an okay song. The instrumentation lacks the energy of earlier cuts, the melody isn’t as fervent or playful, and the mix of influences seems more 2-dimensional.
Overall: Despite a somewhat weak final leg, Xenia Rubinos has created a very interesting album here. The blend of rock, jazz, R&B, and Latin music feels similar to Esperanza Spalding’s latest work, but with a more soulful core instead of the prog-rock showmanship. While Black Terry Cat still doesn’t feel like the full realization of Rubinos’s potential, it is definitely worth listening to.