On her first album in five years, the new Sweet & Sour, Hot y Spicy (Higher Octave), Mexican singer-songwriter Ely Guerra has made a sharp right turn, going for something more determinedly accessible than the ethereal, highly personal sound of the gorgeous Lotofire. Where the previous record set Guerra's breathy vocals (informed by both Brazilian pop and Mexican boleros) over generally low-key beats and smoldering electronic textures, the new album is shiny and hard, at times going in for perky new-wave pop or generic alt-rock crunch. Her singing remains assured and nuanced for the most part, but when she shifts into overdrive, as on the leadoff track, "Te Amo, I Love You," the bombast becomes hard to stomach. In what would appear to be an attempt at wooing North American audiences, Guerra has written a few of the songs in English; though she's fluent, you might not guess it from the lyrics to "Puerto Vallarta," where she insists, "The way I see things here / It's very nice, it's very open / Things are really, really clear." The album is uneven, to be certain, but I have enough confidence in Guerra's talent to hope it's just a detour on a path of artistic growth. DJs Echeverria & Feijoo open. Saturday 11/27, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $25 in advance, $30 day of show.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ricardo Trabulsi.