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Review: Estrada delivers with raw, rich ‘Marchita’

Photo courtesy Glassnote Records

By Jacob Tate     2/1/22 11:13pm

Rating: ★★★★½

Best Track: “Te Guardo”

Más o menos technically translates to more or less but, like Silvana Estrada’s latest album “Marchita,” any kind of technical explanation does it injustice. The key difference is that in Spanish más o menos is a state of being, an answer to a cordial “how are you?” Silvana Estrada’s new album Marchita, beginning with the appropriate “Más o menos antes,” studies that state of being, the pain obscured behind the phrase (Más o menos usually implies a bit more menos than más). Fittingly, the album also explores the tensions of mistranslation, the communication breakdowns, the nuances lost in the process of romantic communion. 

Marchita begins and ends with Silvana Estrada herself, a centralizing force over typically sparse instrumentation. For all her songwriting brilliance, she sings like she has to force secrets out of herself, pushing melodies outwards until something gives and her gorgeous voice can flow freely. Even when full instrumentation pulls in the climax of early standout “Te Guardo,” Estrada’s stilted enunciation of the heartbreaking “Te guardo un po-qui-to de fe” rings like there’s nothing else in the mix. Her voice, often unprocessed, breaks into a million pieces fatalistically, like there was no other way it could be.

From this voice comes the best break-up album since “Fetch the Boltcutters.” But while Fiona Apple sounded self-assured and biting, Estrada drowns in persevering loss. On the title track, she opens starkly with “Te he perdido tantos veces que inevitable es el recuerdo / Y la angustia del reencuentro con tu piel contra mi piel.” On the next track, she begs her own sadness to allow her to love again, her voice cracking over her pleas. Even in the upbeat-sounding “Carta,” Estrada breaks down the brutal logic used by a partner to end a relationship before they might get hurt. Maybe Silvana Estrada would tell you her life is “más o menos,” but she carries the burdens thrust upon her by a nostalgic heart.

Estrada is cursed to replay these scenes of pain, wondering what could have gone differently. Lovers become the goodbyes, the excuses, the secrets that they left behind as she tries to sort through the wreckage to find the meaning or, better yet, the solution. Often, she’s left with nothing, apparent on tracks like “Ser De Ti,” where she offers her partner the moon only to be met with radio silence. When things fall apart, there is so much to sit in and sift through and no one does it better than Silvana Estrada.

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