Ven Again, Ana Tijoux

By: Marcelo Báez

Ana Tijoux, one of Latin America’s most prominent microphone controllers, has just released her fifth LP. Blending fresh studio work with smart, conscious, non-preachy lyrics, Vengo is a solid addition to her career. And interestingly, Tijoux is singing as much as she’s rapping, which makes me wonder on which role I like her more.

The lengthy album (with 17 tracks, it clocks in at over 50 minutes) opens with the track that gives it its title—and it does a good job at summarizing what the LP is about: introspection (“I’m looking for answers”), pride (“With our black hair, prominent cheekbones”) and, um, metaphors about mother earth (“I come with the birds, I come with the flowers, I come with the trees”). I know what you’re thinking: “OMG, she turned into a New Age hippie with an MPC!” But, I assure you, Tijoux makes it work.

Awesome Middle Eastern riffs make “Somos Sur” an energetic chant about self-respect. From there Tijoux mostly plays it safe with Andean-esque sounds (“Antipatriarca,” “Creo en Ti,” “Río Abajo”)—at least when it comes to experimenting with non-traditional instruments. Both treatments sound great, but considering that “Somos Sur” turned out so good, it would be interesting hear what she can do with other “world music,” a genre which has been sectioned into its own ghetto in so many record stores.

Not that Vengo isn’t eclectic: “Todo Lo Sólido Se Desvanece en el Aire” is a grandiose, uplifting reggae; “Emilia,” is a soft, hypnotizing ballad; and “Somos Todos Erroristas” has a jazzy, piano-driven groove. But around that point is where I realize I have to make one harsh decision: I do prefer Tijoux’s singing over her rapping. On “Los Peces Gordos No Pueden Volar,” where the first verse and all the choruses are sung, she sounds excellent. “No Más,” too, is an elegant horn-heavy pop tune. Many rappers can’t hit a note to save their lives, so this often overlooked talent lends her an edge.

I think I prefer Tijoux’s singing because her flow can be too repetitive. This may sound strange, but her enunciation resembles that of a native Portuguese-speaker who’s trying to speak Spanish. She exaggerates the middle vowel in many words and it’s heavily pronounced on songs like “Delta.” It’s no deal breaker, but her particular delivery sometimes feels redundant.

All in all, Vengo is an engaging follow-up to 2011’s La Bala. As a sharp and politically conscious woman, Tijoux does a fine job at expressing her uncertainties on top of slick beats, catchy melodies and nicely polished production.

In other words: Ven again, Ana.

Vengo by Ana Tijoux, 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.