The most fascinating thing about music is how completely different two people can think about it. I remember once my boyfriend walked into my room as Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm” played in the background. He just stopped and said, “This is creepy. If I were alone in my room listening to this, I’d be freakin’ scared. It’s right out of a horror movie, just as they’re about to kill the secondary character.” He was extremely passionate about his level of dislike for my favorite Dylan song.
Y La Bamba, from Portland, Oregon, have compiled an album that’s so hauntingly beautiful that it would probably stop many people in their tracks, enough for them to comment on how damn creepy it is.
And Alida St. is creepy. Each song seems to have been born in a place where everything is looser, simpler, the vocalist’s voice is thinner and ghostlike. Even though some influences manage to leak through, such as Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart, Y La Bamba is still completely different enough to dive right into memorable.
The band mixes English with snippets of Spanish lyrics, but somehow instead of sounding pocho, they’ve carefully crafted something very… French. “Isla De Hierva Buena” sounds sweet, delicate and musky, like a smoke-filled coffeeshop. Many of the tracks are like this: mysterious, bordering on sad, yet more than anything else, they’re entrancing. Songs like “Winter Skin” and “Festival of Panic” perfectly guide you to another scene other than your bedroom or your car, somewhere where it’s windy, and the cacophony of creepy that might seem to bother some is nothing other than dreamy and light, with a hint of nightmarish doom.
Y La Bamba’s collection is clearly based on spirituality and elements of nature—of water and moving trees, and memories of childhood that serve to not only create pieces that appear to be twisted lullabies, but actually manage to be stories elaborate enough to leave you hooked. I thank the music gods for style this different and stunning, a mix of folk and acoustic and something else entirely. Vocalist Luzelena Mendoza’s powerful and distinctive talent is one of the band’s most obvious strong suits, but it’s everything—the way the vocals and lyrics fit the music so perfectly and beautifully, that make Alida St. one of my favorite listens this year.
Download Alida St. for free on Bandcamp here.