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First Listen: Juana Molina, 'Wed 21'

Juana Molina's new album, <em>Wed 21</em>, comes out Oct. 28.
Marcelo Setton
Courtesy of the artist
Juana Molina's new album, Wed 21, comes out Oct. 28.

When Juana Molina decided to abandon a successful career on Argentine television, there were plenty of naysayers. Her brilliant 1996 debut album, Rara (Strange), produced by Argentine music producer Gustavo Santaolalla (composer of the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack), proved them wrong. It reflected her sense of humor (she was a respected comedian) and her musical complexity by combining Argentine folk with hypnotically repetitive electronica beats.

Through superb albums like Una Dia and Son, Molina has garnered a loyal, adoring fan base that crosses cultural barriers.

Recently on NPR's Alt.Latino she spoke about how she layers her music, one element after another, until a structure forms. Case in point: her first single, "Eras," from her much anticipated new album, Wed 21 (out on October 29th). The song immediately washes over you with the trance-like, almost tribal beats she's mastered over the years, and a deep bass line she weaves in and out of with whispering vocals.

Molina's soft-spoken voice has always been the biggest obstacle for me to overcome as a listener, but I've come around to understanding that there is plenty of nuance to it. At times she sounds serene, but in songs like "Eras" there's an exasperation, which is appropriate — this song has an underlying darkness, a frustration. Toward the end she's singing about someone she's been waiting for through many years, many lives even.

In perfect Juana Molina form, the frenetic beat is as insane and darkly hilarious as being stuck in a repetitive situation with someone who is dragging you through the motions for, as she sings, uno, dos, tres ... siete vidas (seven lives).

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Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.