Mus is the sort of band that validates an indie geek’s existence. Twee-loving zine printers, hopelessly snobby record store clerks, mumbling and stuttering college radio jocks—none of them would be able to resist the gorgeous ethereal siren song of Mónica Vacas and her instrumentalist partner, Fran Gayo. With an album released on a Spanish label, lyrics sung in Asturian, a dying Spanish dialect, and a sound that’s simultaneously twee and Velvet Underground inspired, Mus combines the logistical absurdity with the melodic brilliance that keep us nerds salivating. With La Vida, the duo’s latest album, that hopeless obsession can only intensify, as it’s their best yet.
My own fascination with the Spanish duo began when I, myself, was a college radio DJ and discovered their self-titled release, in particular a catchy, electronic, almost Stereolab-like track titled “El Que Na La Puerta.” A year later, I came across their sophomore set, El Naval, which I found all the more enchanting, particularly for its more fleshed-out pop arrangements. And though it had been some time since I heard from this unassuming group, I was thrilled, and a bit surprised to be greeted with a new release by this special group. I found it no great surprise, however, to discover that La Vida is absolutely gorgeous.
La Vida has fewer electronic effects than the group’s debut, and more of a gossamer sheen than El Naval, as evident in the leadoff track “Per Tierres Baxes,” a sweet, Mazzy Star-like lullaby. “Cantares de Ciegu” has a bigger rock arrangement, somewhere between The Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” and anything from Sparklehorse’s It’s A Wonderful Life. “Una Ventana con Lluz” glides slowly and softly, despite being one of the fuller sounding tracks. No matter how dense the arrangement, Vacas always lifts Mus’s songs into an ethereal and haunting stratosphere, the right amount of reverb giving her voice the effect of a ghostly apparition. With “Una Sábana al Vientu,” Vacas and Gayo return to a dancier, electronic sound, albeit a sound that exists seemingly only in a dream world, soaring in and out of clouds, surreal and sublime. And it’s hard not to resist the bluesy “Perdieron y La Tierra,” a hand-clappy, surprisingly upbeat and grooving track that brings the duo’s soaring dream pop down to earth for a soulful jam session.
With a delightfully unfamiliar dialect, a release that’s a bit hard to track down in the States, and a sound that could tame any Championship Vinyl’s Barry, Mus is a music geek’s dream. I should know, I am one, and I absolutely adore La Vida.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.