Angélica Garcia Sees Double on Gemelo

The singer’s first album sung mostly in Spanish explores ideas of duality, dealing in self-exploration and catharsis with restless, compelling energy channeled into bolder sounds.

Music Reviews Angelica Garcia
Angélica Garcia Sees Double on Gemelo

Strictly speaking, Angélica Garcia is not a twin. That is not to say the singer doesn’t possess a certain duality. She’s the American-born daughter of Mexican parents, fluent in Spanish and English, and guided by her formidable intellect as much as by a sense of intuition that’s harder to define. That dualism is at the core of Garcia’s new album, Gemelo, which is the Spanish word for “twin.”

Fittingly, Gemelo marks the first of Garcia’s three albums on which she sings mostly in Spanish. That’s a product of exploring her ancestry, broadening the shape and color of the language(s) in which she expresses herself and, most immediately, presenting her music in a language that the grandmother who helped raise her can understand. Even the album has two sides, and not just in a literal flip-the-vinyl way: The first half is more introspective on songs about self-exploration and a search for meaning. The second half is the catharsis, when Garcia lets fly with a restless, compelling energy that she channels into bolder sounds, with help from Chicano Batman’s Carlos Arévalo, who produced.

Garcia is at her most contemplative on “Color de Dolor” (“Color of Pain”). She ponders the intersection of anguish and beauty, singing through layers of wordless vocals, synthesizers and an electronic beat. The song is a showcase for her voice, which builds in power as the song unfolds, until it sounds as though she’s releasing pain and self-doubt as sonic textures swirl around her. The next song, “Juanita,” comes at the same themes from a different direction. This time, Garcia is addressing a great-great-grandmother who, according to family lore, was known for having an air of mysticism. A rhythm rooted in cumbia pulses beneath Garcia’s vocals as she forges a spiritual connection with her ancestor, asking, “Por qué me llamas?” (“Why do you call me?”).

Things get rowdier on the latter half of Gemelo. “Y Grito” (“And Scream”) is short, but intense, running about a minute and a half. The track roils and froths as it barrels ahead on a bassline that throbs beneath industrial synths and a snapping electronic snare beat. Garcia’s vocals are turned up enough that they distort slightly, and she sounds urgent and unyielding. Elsewhere, “Gemini” returns to the idea of twins as Garcia repeats the same handful of lines throughout the song (in English and Spanish this time), interspersed with bright, loud wordless vocals. She sings accompanied by a funk-heavy rhythm courtesy of hypnotic bassline that locks in with a rolling snare part. Like the other songs on Gemelo, it’s not quite rock, or pop, or Latin—not quite anything except a reflection of Angélica Garcia’s distinctive musical vision. With her versatile voice and magnetic charisma, she easily embodies a style here that is all her own.

Eric R. Danton has been contributing to Paste since 2013. His work has also appeared in Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and Pitchfork, among other publications. He writes Freak Scene, a newsletter about music in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut.

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