PAPA TOPO - Ópalo Negro (Limited 12" Vinyl+MP3s / CD Digipak)
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2. Ópalo Negro
3. Chico De Plutón
4. Davall Ses Flors Des Taronger
6. Akelarre En Mi Salón
7. Sangre En Los Zapatos [Mi Amor]
8. Lágrimas De Cocodrilo
10. Je Suis Un Monstre
11. El Balcón
12. Meteoritos En Hawaii
13. Quédate Cerca De Mí
Finally, the long-awaited full-length from PAPA TOPO is here, after almost three years of record-label silence. This period has allowed Adrià Arbona to let the group’s new line-up settle, solidify, and develop its own sound.
Júlia Fandos (vocals, and flute), Òscar Huerta (guitars and backing vocals) and Sònia Montoya (bass and backing vocals) join Adrià to form one of the groups that stirred up the music scene the most, at the beginning of the decade. These past three years, PAPA TOPO has participated on compilations, they have played songs in live performances halfway around the globe, and most of all, they have very carefully and affectionately prepared their long-awaited debut album.
And now there is a blizzard of unknowns. How have the past three years affected such a young and promising song-writer like Adrià? Has the group’s sound changed, and if so, how much? In a way, we can say totally and not at all. After having shown us his versatility, moving from sixties sounds to saba-daba-da, from garage to punk, from disco to the sweetest pop, it isn’t going to surprise us at all to hear classical pieces, or boleros, on an album that doesn’t completely forget what came before. But it’s all much more cohesive; you can tell that there is more than just a song-writer at work behind it, that there is a solid band. In any case, we are once again looking at a super fun release, that will delight new listeners and the most demanding fans alike.
But let’s go step by step through this fantastic musical journey that was magisterially produced and mixed by Sergio Pérez (SVPER). The opening with chamber music that creates the first contrast with the solid start of “Ópalo Negro”, new-wavey techno-pop that makes it clear how Adrià’s voice, over time, has become more and more like Germán Copini’s, and how Carlos Berlanga’s influence floats through occasionally in PAPA TOPO’s lyrics and melodies. “Chico De Plutón” was released as part of the “Minimúsica” compilation in 2014, but now its form has been enriched and moves closer to Ska-punk.
“Davall Ses Flors Des Taronger” takes another turn with the song in Mallorquín (the language of the Balearic Islands) and clear influences from Bach’s Arias, romantic lieder, and Mediterranean folk, adorned with precious arrangements, that we could also relate to María del Mar Bonet’s first albums. “Enero” is another big hit, and it reminds us of LA MODE, THE WAKE, THE PALE FOUNTAINS, and NEW ORDER: impeccable melodies, untiring, galloping rhythm, an epic chorus that begs for you to sing along, dripping with Raphael’s great choruses, and the magical arrangements of Waldo de los Ríos. On “Akelarre En Mi Salón” we find elevated, carefree punk along the lines of LAS CHINAS, LOS NIKIS, and KAKA DE LUXE, and we see that Júlia is not wanting in attitude when it comes to singing fast, unhinged songs.
“Sangre En Los Zapatos (Mi Amor)”, produced by Guille Milkyway, we had already heard as the single they released three years ago: relentless disco music, SCISSOR SISTERS, CHIC, a song that we (correctly) warned in advance would play incessantly in the best indie clubs, and the lyrics have led to some of the most terrifying choreography on the indie planet. “Lágrimas De Cocodrilo” is a complex post-punk-disco-funk song that shows off another effective chorus that could fit in perfectly in the repertoire of DINARAMA, DELTA 5, MAXIMUM JOY, or on the “Mutant Disco” compilations from the ZE Records label. The tone changes again on “Atormentada” toward the pop-punk that groups like LOS FRESONES REBELDES, NOSOTRÄSH and LA PEQUEÑA SUIZA solidified in Spain, with a melody that is curiously elegant and playful at the same time.
“Je Suis Un Monstre” dives right into euro-pop with synth-pop touches, in French, with female vocals that LIO would have loved. And then there’s another turn of the screw. “El Balcón” is nighttime piano jazz, melancholic, somewhere between Tete Montoliu and Marilyn Monroe at her most seductive. Broken now, almost without hips, we move into the final, double twist back flip, on which we definitively confirm Adrià’s deep love of music.
“Meteoritos En Hawaii” (the last of the songs that we had previous information about) lays it all out without any hesitation, with a merciless surf-punk and unforgettable rhythms: “No te vayas, no me dejes solo en Honolulu / No te vayas, no me dejes, me da mucho yuyu” (Don’t go, don’t leave me alone in Honolulu / Don’t go, don’t leave me, it gives me real bad juju). Techo-pop, New Wave, and Italian disco are all back on another hit that will definitely have us all talking, “Quédate Cerca De Mí”. It’s another dance-floor hit that is going to make this album one of the ones that alternative radios and the darkest clubs in every city burn through it by playing it so much. And “Joana” closes the album with a new surprise, once of those boleros to dance close and slow to, in Mallorquín again, with Spanish guitar arrangements included. This song as well as “Davall Ses Flors Des Taronger” are elegies, written by Adrià after the deaths of his cat Rei and his grandmother Joana. Their deaths affected him immensely and moved him to write these songs in their memory. All the other songs talk about other moments in his life and the changes of style and tone between songs corresponds to the emotional roller coaster that is the life of any young person; there are songs about falling in love, about falling out of love, about unease and misgivings, about parties, mysterious songs, songs that make you cry...
It’s a close, agile album, but that also requires multiple listens in order to digest everything in it. Perfectly perfect pop, open and honest, unprejudiced, with no limitations. Everything fits in with PAPA TOPO. “Ópalo Negro” is something more than a handful of songs from various and opposing points of origin. It is a musical lesson. A melodic philosophy. A way of living through the songs. Incontestable. Exemplary. Highly enjoyable.