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Album Review: 'Tu Historia' by Julieta Venegas

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

There are few Spanish-speaking artists that captivated Latin America in the 2000s like Julieta Venegas.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIMON Y SAL")

JULIETA VENEGAS: (Singing in Spanish).

SHAPIRO: Now, the Mexican singer-songwriter is back with her first studio album in seven years called "Tu Historia." Miguel Perez has this review.

MIGUEL PEREZ, BYLINE: Julieta Venegas' voice - bright, earnest and relaxed - was a touchstone of the Latin music scene of the aughts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIMON Y SAL")

VENEGAS: (Singing in Spanish).

PEREZ: Songs like "Limon Y Sal" walked the fine line between Latin pop and alternative music, and Venegas also helped carve a path to success for similar acts that followed like Natalia Lafourcade, Carla Morrison and Ximena Sarinana. On her new album, "Tu Historia," she sounds like an old friend you haven't seen in a while - altogether familiar yet full of new stories to tell.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EN TU ORILLA")

VENEGAS: (Singing in Spanish).

PEREZ: Chilean musician Alex Anwandter produced the record, and you can hear his electronic pop and disco sensibilities on songs like "En Tu Orilla." And while Venegas has played with '80s synths on past records, she's never sounded this primed for a strobe-lit dancefloor.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EN TU ORILLA")

VENEGAS: (Singing in Spanish).

PEREZ: There's also plenty of what you might consider the artist's classic sound on "Tu Historia." A multi-instrumentalist and sharp songwriter, Venegas is best known for navigating love and heartbreak through uncomplicated flourishes of guitar, piano and her signature instrument, the accordion.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIETA VENEGAS SONG, "TU HISTORIA")

PEREZ: But the songwriting is always at the heart of the music for Venegas. On "Tu Historia," she sings about embracing your past and wearing your mistakes like a badge of honor. Her voice is tender and comforting, and the twang of the accordion, so emblematic of the music of northern Mexico, offers a new layer of interpretation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TU HISTORIA")

VENEGAS: (Singing in Spanish).

PEREZ: Venegas was born in Long Beach, Calif. But she grew up on the other side of the border in Tijuana. And though her music has never really fit into any particular box, what binds it all together is an inexplicable Mexican spirit that transcends genre. And she grew up hearing her mom sing "Corridos" from Tigres Del Norte and lullabies from the Mexican children's character Cri-Cri. And then she moved to Mexico City and joined the wave of rock en Espanol. Venegas finds herself revisiting all these old memories on "La Nostalgia."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA NOSTALGIA")

VENEGAS: (Singing in Spanish).

PEREZ: The artist sings of the longing she feels for Tijuana, a home she thought she'd left far in the past. But the nostalgia lingers. She sings, let it live because it's a part of you - a motto that rings true throughout this record with all its new sounds and familiar ones too, made possible by an artist that not only knows her history but proudly embraces it.

SHAPIRO: The album "Tu Historia" by Julieta Venegas is out now. Our reviewer, Miguel Perez, is a producer for World Cafe in Philadelphia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA NOSTALGIA")

VENEGAS: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.