Chilean-French emcee Ana Tijoux (whose mixtape Elefant I included in my best of 2011 podcast) is back with a thoughtful, third release today—La Bala—from Nacional records.
Her new album starts off with the title track, "Bala" ("Bullet"), which is fittingly rapid, relentless, and with a to-the-point delivery. Overall, the album is slower and smoother than her Grammy-nominated 2009 album 1977, though just as captivating.La Bala has a stronger R&B influence, aided by instrumental brass and strings segues, a high-hat instead of drum machine, live musicians instead of samples. On slower songs like "Sacar la Voz" (which features Jorge Drexler) and the jazz-tinged "Quizas" (featuring Detroit's Monica Blaire), Tijoux's flow is no less fierce and her voice no less transfixing. Her lyrical delivery is direct, succinct, and steadfast. La Bala picks back up with a bang again with "Si Te Preguntan," bringing on Cuban duo Los Aldeanos. The album wraps up with "Volver," a dreamy melodic piece where Tijoux sings over violins and cellos, a thoughtful and fitting conclusion.
On NPR's Alt.Latino, Jasmine Garsd summed up Tijoux nicely:
Recently on our show, [we] discussed how difficult it is to find songs that are both musically solid and socially conscious. Tijoux excels in both areas. She can be laid-back and sexy, letting words drip slowly from her mouth, then issue a scathing social critique. Listen to the bitter but lyrically stunning "Las Cosas Por Su Nombre": "Not your Ministry, your Monastery, nor your money, which by the way come from our taxes ... Be careful, the doors might close! ... Well, let's be clear, these doors have never been open." I've always admired Tijoux's ability to melt the Spanish language like plastic and reconstitute it, putting accents and inflections wherever she pleases.
As a non-Spanish speaker, I can't fully appreciate her lyrical prowess and the political power of her songs, but her video for the single "Shock" speaks volumes. The song brings attention to the student protests in Chile, who are challenging the unfair, elitist education system put in place by Pinochet. The video features young Chileans holding signs with their name and school, some declaring, "Apoyo a los estudiantes" ("I support the students") mixed with soundbites on the protest (with English and French subtitles). Tijoux told Remezcla Musica, "Writing this song, I was inspired by these social movements, writing from my perspective as a mother, musician and citizen. I thought it was important to pay homage to these protesters." You can read the "Shock" lyrics here.