This story, by Miguel Perez, KERA’s associate producer of “Morning Edition,” originally aired on NPR and npr.org.
Mujeres means women in Spanish, and it is women who take center stage on Y La Bamba’s new record. Front woman Luz Mendoza says she wrote the album for her mother and for all women fighting to be heard. The result sounds like a celebration. Our reviewer, Miguel Perez, says it is also a passionate rebuke against misogyny.
The title track on Y La Bamba’s new record – ‘Mujeres’ – is laden with emotion. Roaring drumbeats lead a fierce chant. “Let me through; I need to pass,” Mendoza sings. “This is my road, my body, my soul.” “Women,” she sings, “are like water – powerful and life-giving but taken for granted.”
‘Mujeres’ is Y La Bamba’s first album with Mendoza acting as executive producer, and you can hear the difference. The band sounds more empowered, and the songs here move between genres brilliantly. There are bits of dream pop, folk, old-school rock. The band also uses field recordings to take songs to a whole new level. Listen for the songbirds on “Real Talk.”
Mendoza sings, “All this nonsense has been hanging in my mind and my body knows what it’s like to die.” The song is a whisper compared to the boom of the title track, but it hits just as hard. And it’s that wide range of energy between tracks that makes “Mujeres” so good at conveying the joy, the grief, the love and the pain behind the music.
“Can you hear me?” Mendoza continues, “It’s hard to say what I need to say.” Y La Bamaba’s frontwoman grew up listening to traditional Mexican folk styles. And you can hear it in the trill of acoustic guitars and layered percussion. But by far, the strongest link to that history is in Mendoza’s singing. Raw, emotional, self-possessed – it evokes the melodrama of a mariachi ballad.
The song, which means full mouth, is captivating. But Mendoza’s warm and earthy vocals mask a painful message. She says it’s about her father and the emotional walls machismo creates between loved ones. A culture of toxic masculinity is still entrenched in a lot of Mexican cultures. And that reality hangs heavy over Mendoza’s words.
“Why is your soul so far from mine,” she asks. Mendoza’s processing personal trauma here and tackling a particularly messy part of the Mexican-American experience.
The album does a great job of letting the music document those highs and lows. “Mujeres” embraces, even celebrates, the pain that comes from untangling the good and the bad in your identity and savoring the power of seeing those bare threads unraveled before you.
Y La Bamba’s new album is called “Mujeres.” Our reviewer, Miguel Perez, is KERA’s associate producer of Morning Edition.