Juana Molina

album cover

The Best from an Argentine Original

In interviews after this astounding record appeared in 2003, Juana Molina said she'd never studied Brian Wilson's late Beach Boys music, hadn't checked out too much pop-electronica, and only had a passing knowledge of Björk. She explained that she'd grown up around Brazilian music (her father was a poet and lyricist) and spent much of her adult life working in Argentine television—eventually hosting a popular weekly sketch comedy series. Only after she walked away to pursue music did she begin to take in the wide world of pop.

That's hard to believe listening to "Mantra del bicho feo," one of several pieces that revolve around gorgeous cascading waterfalls of multitracked Molina vocals. Though there are lyrics, she sings most of the song in a repertoire of bwees and bah-bah-bahs that recall the Beach Boys, except with spry post-bossa nova guitar patterns and hand drums bubbling underneath. Her music has a tranquil air, but every now and then Molina, who recorded this by herself at home, mostly at night, lets the harmonies drift into dissonance, or brings in an odd squiggle from a detuned synthesizer. When that happens, the music feels as if it's being slowly pulled into a more sinister zone, a trip with Captain Beefheart at the wheel and Björk navigating.

Those unpredictable flare-ups give Molina's songs—which tell of misunderstandings and missed connections—an undercurrent of vague disquiet. One gets the sense that Molina, an artist with little tolerance for the status quo and an ear for adventure, likes it that way.

Genre: World, Argentina
Released: 2003, Domino
Key Tracks: "Martin Ferro," "La visita," "Quiero," "Mantra del bicho feo"
Catalog Choice: Son
Next Stop: Beth Orton: Central Reservation
After That: Savath and Savalas: Apropa't
Book Page: 511

Buy this Recording

Related Posts on the Blog

Moon Ten Best from 2008 - December 22, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Artist Update: Juana Molina - October 11, 2008 at 4:59 pm

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#1 from Anastasia Fuller, Seattle, WA - 11/17/2008 9:53

After reading your blog post about Juana Molina’s new album Un Dia, I just got the album. And, wow! I would definitely say it’s one of my favorite albums from 2008. So much to hear that you just want to listen to it over and over. I’m looking forward to checking out her older albums as well, including Segundo. If Un Dia had been out when you were writing the book, would you have chosen it over Segundo?

#2 from Tom Moon - 11/23/2008 7:14


So glad you got to check out Juana Molina—I think she’s one of our most interesting artists, with an approach to sound that’s unlike any other. Un Dia will be on my Best of 2008 list, which I’ll post here in December.

I like all of her work, but if I had to select today, I’d still go with Segundo. It’s earthier, not as polished, but defined by this really intense urgency. Especially in the vocal harmonies, which are much looser (more improvisational) than on the latest record. Those who like the new one may find a new favorite in Segundo.

Thanks for your note! Happy exploring….


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