On her first proper full-length, Cuban-American songstress Malena Perez deftly combines elements of house, jazz, soul and electronica into a strikingly emotional journey. Stars is the epitome of lounge coolness, swimming through its tracks with velvety ease. Wrapped in gauzy beats and bilingual lyrics, Stars takes world music to new heights.
Sade, Amel Larrieux, Jill Scott, Tracey Thorn and Omara Portuondo are just some of Perez's influences on "Cubanita Groove," a track pulsing with Afro-Cuban rhythms. She only uses them as a jumping-off point, though; Perez confidently expresses her own musical vision on Stars. From quiet ballads to slinky electronica, her sound is wide reaching. The high points rest in the house and electronic elements, with tracks such as "Free to Fly" and "Praise the Day" setting the tone. "Surrender" is a soothing number propelled by a simmering trip-hop groove, and "What Do I Do" ventures into drum 'n' bass territory with its stuttering drums and moody atmosphere. Lyrically, Perez illustrates her world-music vibe by switching between English and Spanish lyrics throughout the album, sometimes within the same track. Her voice is the perfect complement to the understated beats: soft, exotic and enchanting.
These days cultures are blending like never before, and this album is a sign of the times. Stars is a melting pot of musical and cultural influences that goes down just right.
Cubanita Groove Web site