Nacho’s Storytelling

By: Marcelo Báez

He’s not much of a singer. He is awkward, and not particularly attractive.

So how did Nacho Vegas, a 39-year-old Spanish singer/songwriter, acquire such a rabid, geeky, nitpicking fan base? By writing brilliant lyrics.

Oscillating between folk, rock, murder ballads and even rancheras, Nacho is by no means a bad musician. But, just like Nick Cave, Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen, his real forte is storytelling. Few songwriters can write dark, elegant and articulate songs about death (“El Ángel Simón”), homicide (“Por Culpa de la Humedad”) and, um, anal sex (“Dry Martini S.A.”) with such grace. But it’s been three years since La Zona Sucia, Nacho’s last studio record, was released, and that record wasn’t nearly as good as 2008’s El Manifiesto Del Desastre. So is Resituación, Vegas’s latest LP, any better? Let’s see.

In “Actores Poco Memorables,” the first single, we are greeted by Nacho’s signature roster of strange and quirky characters. As in most of his colorful stories, Nacho frames himself as an objective narrator, and that’s how we learn of Manuel, a lonely man whose “best friend is a sock, which he places on his left hand when he’s looking to be understood,” and Maria, “a liberal divorcée who spikes her tea with vodka and feels guilty if she doesn’t vote.”

Nacho’s storytelling works because, no matter how odd, he’s always sympathetic towards his characters. In songs like “Rapaza de San Antolín,” he’s delighted to illustrate their lives with detailed observations: “Whistling a cumbia villera with a tropical-rustic look, she goes and introduces herself in that sexy and traditional way.”

Musically, this album isn’t much of a departure from La Zona Sucia. “Ciudad Vampira” has a banjo, a harmonica, and sounds like soft horse-galloping music. Kinda Nick Drake–ish, “Runrún” is a ballad whose vintage-style backup vocals give it a lullaby-esque vibe. There’s lots of plucked acoustic instruments, light drum kits and, of course, Nacho’s monotone vocals.

Resituación is not Vegas’s best work, but neither is it his worst. The upbeat songs in major keys will probably make some fans yearn for the dirty, distorted synths of yore (think “Noches Árticas”). But, after listening to this record various times, one feels just like Nacho does in “La Vida Manca,” the last song: “Algo así como feliz.” Sort of happy-like.

LOGISTICS: Resituación by Nacho Vegas, available now

Marcelo Baéz is a writer, DJ, and musician based in NYC. When he's not producing "Rico Suave" parties, he releases music under P3CULIAR.