Review Alex Anwandter – Rebeldes
Alex Anwandter’s sophomore effort, Rebeldes, is a modern study on queer politics and Latin American pop, wrapped in infectious neon beats and 80s style synths. As with his first solo record Odisea, there is no hint of his former band, Teleradio Donoso, or the melodious rock and roll it was known for. On the contrary, with very few live instruments, Rebeldes is the perfect product of machines; a stylish mixture of synthesizer mastery and beat making skills that perfectly matches Anwandter’s soft, harmonious croon. The lyrics are full of sentimentality and pack a powerful punch to the heart of the listeners; an invitation to go deeper into Anwandter’s world.
On its review of the album’s opening track, NPR’s Alt.Latino called “¿Cómo puedes vivir contigo mismo?” an instant gay pride anthem, and they couldn’t be more right. With its thumping 70s Italian disco beats, the song is a direct invitation to own up to what you are without fear of prejudice. But make no mistake; this is no Lady Gaga shtick. The song, disco glam notwithstanding, has the melancholic undertones that make the track, not only empowering, but also a wish for better days. “¿No te sientes como estrella en la luz de la presencia ajena? Siendo sólo lo que soy es que entiendo lo que es real. Y aunque digan que es malo, yo me siento en el cielo,” Anwandter sings. Adding to the aura of the song, the music video is a direct homage to the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning, which explores the New York City drag balls of the 1980s.
Needless to say, Anwandter is a great balladeer. This can be heard in “Como una estrella”, a dream pop gem about worshipping a lover that doesn’t necessarily worship back. “Felicidad”, the next track on the record, is a full blast of early house beats about unhappiness, of all things. The beauty of Anwandter’s music is that it tricks us at every turn. The danceable beats and the sweet, lustful melodies are sometimes at odds with the subject matter of the lyrics. This is a commendable feat, specifically because at first it seems like Anwandter is making us choose between listening to the music and paying attention to the lyrics. But rather than one cancelling out the other, the musician manages to create a seamless union between both. A prime example of this is “Tatuaje”, a track with a sound reminiscent of Spanish-Mexican singer Alaska, which deals with the torrid end of an affair. “Guardo un tatuaje de nuestra época más gris. Y yo fui feliz, y fuiste feliz,” are some of the lyrics Anwandter lays on us.
In today’s pop climate, it certainly is rare to find an album as heart-on-your-sleeve honest as Anwandter’s, and that is refreshing. Leave it to Chile to restore our faith in good pop records. Already a musical icon in his own right, Anwandter joins the ranks of Chile’s bubbling pop scene, alongside Javiera Mena, Francisca Valenzuela, Gepe and others. In fact, the album was produced by Cristián Heyne, who has helped Mena with the body rocking percussion her music is known for. In Rebeldes, Anwadter’s songwriting is simple, yet it cuts through to the bone. The songs are incredibly danceable and completely relatable to anyone who, in the darkest hours, has ever found comfort in the neon lights of the dance floor.