Review | Songlines


Top of the World

Rating: ★★★★

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Album and Artist Details


Orkesta Mendoza


Glitterbeat Records


The US/Mexican frontier is a hotspot of hope and anguish, drugs and guns, rednecks and refugees. Orkesta Mendoza, formed by Calexico percussionist and keyboard player Sergio Mendoza, accents the celebratory and the vital. Upbeat cumbia, swoony ranchera and, above all on this third release, banging boogaloo are given a polished, rock-friendly treatment that's the ultimate in likeable Latin crossover. Opener ‘Paleta’ goes straight to the nerve of things with an infectious cumbia rhythm. ‘Boogaloo Arizona’ features the inimitable puro-smokin' vocals of Amparo Sánchez and soaring brass. The reggae beat on ‘Are We Better Now?’ holds up an 80s pop song.

Like Calexico, Orkesta Mendoza love sweet chord sequences and lush vocals, balanced by a Latino tinge of melancholy and well-placed minor notes. Mendoza is a rock‘n’roller at heart. ‘Head Above Water’ tips its Panama hat to The Police. ‘Eres Oficial’ channels Buddy Holly as well as Cyndi Lauper. There are guests on 12 of the 14 tracks, including Mexican Institute of Sound, Joey Burns, DeVotchKa's Nick Urata and fiddler Carrie Rodriguez. Made famous by the likes of Joe Cuba, boogaloo is a US-born fusion of mambo and son with R&B and soul. During its craze-like heyday, it was about edgy fun and frantic dancing. Curandero takes that essence and updates it to offer a healing musical hybrid for our times.

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