Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, it’s just another week of August. I’ve been meaning for some time to catch up with some records I want to recommend you. It’s true that I don’t usually do this because I’m pretty biased when I review records, but it seems it has helped a band or two to sell some of their records and reach a new and happy audience. That’s a good thing isn’t it? Then I should doing more often. So, instead of doing an obscure band today from the past, let me go over a record I’ve listened a bunch this summer. Sounds fine to you? I hope so, because sounds fine to me.
“Flores de Europa” (Flowers from Europe), is the new album by one of Madrid’s finest bands: Los Lagos de Hinault. This is their second full length effort after “Vidas Ejemplares” (Exemplary Lives) released in 2011 on the same label, the Scandi-loving Fikasound Records from Spain. In between there was a split single alongside another Spanish band, El Faro. And earlier this year, in spring, there was another split with yet another Spanish band, the highly rated Doble Pletina. Not forgetting of course the 3″ split earlier in their career with The Sunbathers released by yours truly.
After this fast recap of their discography, for those who don’t know, Los Lagos de Hinault are a duo conformed by Carlos Ynduráin and Matilde Tresca, though when I saw them live at Madrid Popfest they counted with support from a friend on drums. That was the one time I had the chance to catch them live and listen to fantastic songs like “El Correo del Zar” or “Las Chicas Rubias de Serrano” among others. I hope next year more festivals will give them a chance, how I wish to see them in NYC Popfest for example! Or the UK should take note too! Or Berlin?
Yes, I love them. If you think about it, there songs are the only ones I released in Spanish on Cloudberry (and of course the cover of the Fat Tulips by Zipper). That must say something. I love songs in Spanish, there’s a different style of lyrics that I really enjoy, a sense of humour that is very unlikely to be found in songs written in other languages. But of course singing in Spanish is a bit of a handicap, you reach a smaller crowd. It is definitely not true that bands from Spain can reach easily Latin America. Most of the times music from Spain stays in Spain. The day that this is fixed, there will be a bright bright future for indiepop!
Let’s go through some technicalities. Important ones. The album was recorded in December 2013 in the Caballo Grande studios in Barcelona. Cristian Pallejà and Ferran Resines produced the album whereas Javier Roldón mastered it in Vacuum Mastering in Zaragoza. All of the songs were written by Carlos but “A una Ventana Triste” that was jointly written by Carlos and Pablo Hernández.
In this new record, released in June, Los Lagos de Hinault present us 13 new songs. In general, the “lo-finess” of their earlier works have given to a more produced feel, nevertheless they haven’t lost any edge. The poignancy of the lyrics still carry, and powerfully so, the songs. The record opens with the small vignettes of daily life in “San Juan de la Luz”, with it’s summer evening feeling, the smell of sea salt, the soft crashing of Mediterranean waves and trumpets to close the song. Songs with trumpets are always winners!
So after that subtle start the record picks up with a more traditionally upbeat song. Los Lagos de Hinault are all about upbeat when at it’s best. And short, very short songs, usually getting to the minute and a half mark, and stopping right there. The second song follows that standard they’ve been crafting since day one. “Maria del (Mar Rojo)” is a funny title, I have a friend Maria del Mar, so I can’t help but think of her when this song plays. A short story of city life, one of those meaningless encounters that mean so much if you know what I mean.
I love the next song very much, “Futuras Licenciadas”. Of course I know Carlos is joking about it, but who am I to deny that I love girls in libraries wearing glasses. “I want to die condemned by Roman Law, and by the girls who study playing with their shoes”. What a beautiful song, sweet, fun, and ringing so true. Matilde’s backing vocals are delicious in this one.
The upbeatness continues and it seems there’s no way to stop it. “Poligono Industrial” opens with a superb line, “It makes me so sad the engineers and the bonsais”. It’s not in any good person’s nature to go for Christmas shopping or just hang out at IKEA just for fun. That’s what it’s about, again Los Lagos de Hinault nails it with simplicity, they are true modern crooners of life in the city.
Talking about that, cities, I grew on one, and every time I’ve been in the outdoors, in the suburbs, in places far away from civilization, life has been close to miserable. I need this city life, even with all of it’s funny sides and the things that don’t make sense, to feel alive. I love though when someone can so smartly pinpoint these little details that make us angry, happy, sad, relieved, etc, in the city.
Social gatherings, having to hear other people’s pointless stories of great ambition, that’s what “Viajar No Lleva a Ningún Sitio” criticizes. With sarcasm it even gives us tips on how to avoid these people, why not just break the conversation asking, “is that my glass or yours?”. I reckon it will work. Afterwards, song number 6 comes, with a play on words: “Panero y Yo”. This is a nod to a book I really hated when I was a kid, “Platero y Yo” by Juan Ramón Jiménez. I really didn’t enjoy it, wonder if I’d do now.
“Zumba”. I don’t know anyone that actually practices that. But I’d love to change the Zumba word for Yoga here in NYC. EVERYONE seems to be doing it, and I just don’t get it. I love how in this song Santiago Auserón from Radio Futura is being quoted, giving some advice to the Zumba enthusiasts. It doesn’t make any sense but it makes a lot of sense. This is the great humour and irony of Los Lagos de Hinault, even more ending the song by repeating “Semilla Negra“, on of Radio Futura’s classics.
We’ve listened already half of the album and we get into an introspective moment with “Los Faros en el Mar”, the lighthouses in the sea. But it’s an introspection into creepiness! so beware! A line like “if there’s something I don’t want to miss is seeing a daughter of yours turning sixteen” can tell you what this is about, right?!
Los Lagos de Hinault clearly are social observers, social critics, and they continue with this trend with their next song, “En un Hotel”. Like in other songs they tackle many “sins”, here they go on mocking vanity. A sort of useless vanity that a lot of people seem to strive for. Yes, who wouldn’t want to die with an English-speaking woman in a hotel? Right?
“Quemasangre” speeds up again the record, that by the way is not just a vinyl record. It includes a CD! So you can play it everywhere! Quemasangre are those sort of people that just get on someone’s nerves. Funny enough the character in the song has no clue about the meaning of it, and his girl keeps telling him he is like that!
I wonder by now if the album title has anything to do with every song. I start having a theory, as there are seven deadly sins, why can’t they be the thirteen traits that Los Lagos de Hinault want to point that are part of the nature of the European continent? Like ambition, vanity, banality, etc, etc, as they’ve been going through in every song? And as they are so ironic, instead of calling these Horrors from Europe, they just decide to call them Flowers? Could it be? Just an idea, but don’t let me get sidetracked.
“Metáforas que Hacéis” is a song that rings a bell to me. How many times I listen to these terrible songs on the radio (or more like I used to listen, I haven’t touched a radio in a long time). The terrible metaphors that make no sense at all, or obvious clichés, and suddenly these sort of people are celebrated, as original, cultured and groundbreaking. From the top of my head that awful Guatemalan singer called Ricardo Arjona comes to mind with his amazing metaphors, among them “come with me to be alone”. But of course, we could think of all the hipsters, and all of those who pretend by just using fancy words. Oh, just like that pretender who wrote the “Twee” book.
The record is about to end. Two more songs. Now it’s the happy-go-lucky number, “Simpático y vago”. A feel good song with it’s dose of reality, even if you are a simpleton, and you will blame television for not being smart, you can always offer love. Will the girl take him? I will guess that yes, she will. It’s too much of a happy song to have a bad ending!
“A una Ventana Triste” closes the album. After dissecting song by song, it feels sad to stop here. This song is the sad one of the album. Feels like the night is coming down. The day is over. Time to be melancholic. Time to think and meditate. Of course, that’s how the song feels. Los Lagos de Hinault always take even these feelings with humour. You can look out your window, try to be sentimental and no, suddenly there’s a big billboard there. See, life is not as simple as it appears, it’s definitely not Hollywood with it’s perfect landscapes and views. Everything is polluted, but at the same time, you need to be able to see the beauty (and the irony) in it.
The album is kaput by now. We can play it again. I’m at the office now so I keep streaming it on Bandcamp. But you should buy it here on Fikasound, because that will make yourself happy. It also includes a lovely pink totebag. It’s the first pink totebag I’ve ever owned.
Irony and wittiness, like a boy/girl TVPs of the 2000s, social critics, cultured in popular culture and the not so popular too, Los Lagos de Hinault have a very refined sense of humour, definitely not for the regular radio listeners out there, but if you want something a bit more challening that the Billboard 100, well, I won’t get tired of recommending you this album, especially if you can understand some Spanish. Beautifully crafted songs, in a lush packaged record, can you ask for more? Definitely one of the top releases of this year.