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Caramelo | Ride

album review by John Powell

Caramelo| Ride

“Flamenco funk” sounds both original and tempting, a hybrid for the ages. That’s what dancer/singer Sara Erde alongside guitarist Jed Miley thought, too, and pulled together a Brooklyn collective and called it Caramelo. Soon came Ride, a record searching through this hybrid for some sort of stasis.

Intentions were good, and in many places Caramelo pulls off hunky funk pop, simple melodies with Flamenco guitar and percussion gushing in the background. In this bilingual world, horns keep the funk high, like a mellower Santana, possibly.

Much like the opener, “The Girl is Gone”, the songs strike a strange balance instrumentally, but the lyrics often come off cheap. “I won’t be lying/ won’t be crying/ won’t be waiting in an empty bed,” Sara sings with sauce on the opener, but melody and lyrics combined break no new ground, and in fact fall right into convention. When she switches to Spanish it’s somewhat more thrilling, but when she sings, “We cried so many tears” it creates no real emotional affect.

“Como Quieres” introduces a little slap bass, piloted again by delicious guitar play, and again, finds itself fixed in the emotional tired track. “When you come ‘round/ I can see your light/ I stare now/ in the darkest night.” The entire song plummets too easily into a bowl of cheesiness, although the slinky guitar solo is redeeming.

Caramelo thrives on the faster songs, but on those like “Nico”, when the mood shifts into low gear, Caramelo can’t pull themselves onto a higher rung than adult contemporary. “I need to take you home/ the sugar in your soul,” such lyrics provoke, and then on “Peligroso” they ditch this sentimentality completely, diving head first into Flamenco sexiness. Finally, when Sara warns, “Don’t go back to Buenos Aires,” there’s weight. Although the song seems out of place on Ride, it feels a much better fit for Caramelo.

The kicker is “Brooklyn”, which is not just a good song, but freaking insanely awesome. Warm percussion stirs the brew of funk; bass, drums, and horns add spice, and the guitar feeds itself through electric nuance. The arrangement is lovely. The lyrics are excellent as well, as Sara takes us through the neighborhoods, and overall, the sense of music community of the borough shines through. “I won’t say you had your day,” Sara sings. “I gave you love in the morning,” and it could be to a lover, or more likely a plea to the city.

If Caramelo could tap into this side more, relaxing themselves, having more fun, like when the bridge offers, “You love the life you live/ you live the life you love,” it’s more than good; it’s hitting human nature.

So, while Ride has no falter in musicianship, it’s original songs aren’t much more than seeking out their sound, and Caramelo can use this experience to learn that the fast tempos, the fun, and pushing for better lyrics, results in a great album, something “Brooklyn” all the way through, and that doesn’t mean they have to lose their flavor.

Bottom line: Ride is Caramelo trying on a bunch of hats. Not many fit, but those that do have feathers, frills, and fun.


 

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