What’s the allure of Christina Rosenvinge? Formerly half of the cheery duo Alex y Christina, the fine-featured Rosenvinge became an internationally recognized icon in the Latin-pop world from the late ’80s to mid-’90s. Growing weary of the music machine, she took a break in the late ’90s and, with the encouragement of Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth drummer, Smells Like owner and Rosenvinge collaborator), visited New York to record and perform with his Two Dollar Guitar side project. What was intended to be a brief visit became the next five years of her life, during which she raised a family and recorded a few albums of quiet, gloss-free ditties. Through it all, the same label and community that launched the careers of brave-hearts like Cat Power and Jad Fair has embraced her.
But none of this fully explains Rosenvinge’s allure. Perhaps because Rosenvinge’s potential speaks more than any of her tangible actions. As a pop idol, her pretty looks and fun-time hooks were easily digestible, but her blank gaze suggested a critical mind at work. Her introspective solo work has been honest and revelatory but has never cohered as any sweeping statement. However, she has opened up with each release, writing songs with a sense of something exciting around the corner.
In this sense, Continental 62 can be disheartening, but for all the right reasons. Written during the dissolution of a long-term relationship, the album explicitly details the emotional mess of breakups and the gradual process of healing — which, for her, took returning home to Spain. The support from old mates, like Two Dollar Guitar’s Tim Foljahn and Steve Shelley, makes the album akin to Rosenvinge’s prior works, but she stands out by working out her heartache with surprising clarity. She paints intimate pictures of her ordeal — she discusses such things as packing her kitchenware and belongings — but keeps the music aloof and comfortably distant, like she is sharing the experience more than dumping her emotional baggage on a listener. As such, she closes the album with a weary waltz that suggests an acknowledgment of movement rather than stagnation in a torrid hailstorm of tears. Continental 62 represents a significant change of course for Rosenvinge, both personally and artistically, but it promises another welcome change in her years to come.