By Max Newman
Natalia Lafourcade is an intriguing artist. Born in Mexico City, she started off her career in the early 2000s with a distinctly poppy sound. Towards the end of the decade, she began to move towards more indie sonic themes, and then to straight-up folk. It was a lengthy musical journey for the talented multi-instrumentalist, one in which experimentation and evolution were plentiful. But it is certainly also one with a spectacular conclusion in 2022’s De Todas Las Flores.
Released in late 2022, this 12-track recording is a modern classic. Inspired by a variety of Latin music forms including Cumbia, Bolero, and Bossa Nova, the songwriting here for the work’s hour-long duration is simply breathtaking in a way that not many recordings are. Most of the instrumentation is based upon contagiously catchy and flawless Latin drum rhythms and dreamy yet vivid and delicate acoustic guitar patterns, creating a magnetic musical atmosphere.
This form is especially prevalent on “Maria la Curandera,” in which Lafourcade discusses the healing powers of love over a whimsical, loping rhythm, as well as, “Mi manera de querer,” a catchy Bossa Nova tune about the nuances of affection. “Muerte,” follows a similar pattern, featuring claustrophobic, spoken word lyrics discussing the impact of death and the appreciation of life over tense piano, guitar, and saxophone runs.
There is some instrumental variation here as well. An halo of heart-wrenching strings adorns much of the tracklist, perhaps most effectively on the slowly moving, highly emotional “El lugar correcto” and “Caminar bonito,” two songs which both eloquently touch on the necessity to experience hardships and emotionally trying moments in order to experience true beauty in life.
On other songs, pianos that would make the most hardened person cry float beautifully under Lafourcade’s voice. On the lonely and yearning “Pasan los dias,” melancholy-drenched keys and guitar plucking form an impeccable musical backdrop. Further on, “Canta la arena” showcases this song style in an entirely different manner, as the sounds of pianos and guitars dance joyously beneath Lafourcade’s jubilant, surrealist lyrics.
While these intricate compositions are superb, the album’s best music comes with more stripped down instrumentation. In the opener, “Vine Solita,” anguished strings give way to a tear jerking and sparse guitar melody. Lafourcade’s voice is sharp yet beautiful, with lyrics painfully aware of her own mortality that create a striking entrance to the project. “Llévame viento” features similar instrumentation, topped off with a fluttering saxophone and drums so sparse that you forget they are even there. This gorgeously psychedelic ambience mesmerizes as Lafourcade reveals her strained, inner desire for true happiness.
“Pajarito colibri” is a dazzling ballad, awash with figurative language, with Lafourcade’s words serving as encouragement to face one’s fears, and reassurance that everything will be alright. The title track is one of the best songs you will hear this decade, as Lafourcade abstractly discusses the passing and creation of memories in a sea of mysterious backing vocals, graceful pianos, and a catchy yet pensive guitar melody.
The delicate closer, “Que te vaya bonito Nicolas,” is perhaps the most musically sparse song on the entire tracklist, but perhaps the most emotionally dense. On top of subtle yet splendid piano and guitar runs, Lafourcade articulates the inevitability of the cycle of life and death, viewed through the lens of her nephew’s passing in 2021. The subject matter is dense and sad, but Lafourcade acknowledges the hopeful messages it teaches us. In an interview last year, she said that the song is “a hymn to life and a reminder of how finite it is and how important it is to take care of ourselves in the nest while remembering in rejoicing and happiness, those who are no longer here.”
It is this ability that Lafourcade has in tackling deep topics combined with exquisite songwriting that makes this album the masterpiece that it is. It may have only come out this past year, but its sheer musical prowess and lyrical content already eclipses most other music out there. Truly, an album with a legacy that deserves to live infinitely.