Album Review: Canella make us smile

ALBANY – Simply put, the debut album from Canella, Can’t Make You Smile, is nothing short of inspiring. Not only is the instrumentation and arrangement gripping across all nine tracks – Canella’s Juliana Castrillón makes excellent use of her Colombian roots, to say the least – the vocals are solid throughout. Combining indie-pop with Latin American rhythms is such an intriguing and welcomed pairing, and one this album certainly showcases.

With “Never Again,” an incredibly rhythmic vocal and instrumental figure float in tight fashion to start the record. The song instantly solidifies itself as a terrific pop tune with alternative rock aesthetics, especially with the guitar part and tone. Undeniably grabbing listeners’ ears with such a well-arranged production, Juliana’s voice sits so well in the mix. A repeating motif that switches meter concludes the track.

On single “Why Can’t I,” it’s abundantly clear just how important syncopation is in Canella’s body of work. A chorus-soaked guitar serves as the tune’s intro before the full band joins in, blending the simplicity of certain rock genres, in terms of groove, with clave patterns of Latin music. Fans of the band will also recognize “No Escape,” another pre-release single that’s caught the attention of local airwaves. Familiarity or not, at least one thing remains true: the guitar solo is just as blistering to my ears as it was the first time I heard it.

Conversely, the first half of track three, “Quiet Love,” features a contemplative vocal and standalone guitar. There are sections of the piece, especially during the latter half, where it sounds like an etude. Despite the amount of instrumentation and arrangement in Canella’s songs, one should not count out the band lyrically.

Another prime example of the band’s abilities in that department is “Here For You,” which swerves a hard left into plaintive arpeggios. As the song develops, the forlorn and mournful lyrics open up with much more bombastic instrumentation. On top of that, Juliana’s voice during the chorus really explodes. It’s delivered in such a way that the emotions are pouring through the speakers. Another song with an equally well-delivered vocal is a splendid cover of Olivia Rodrigo’s standout, “Déjà Vu”. The explosion of instrumentation Canella bring to the middle is so unexpected; it takes the song to new heights.

“See Thru Shirt,” track eight, serves as an example that whether the band uses syncopation or not, they kick ass. Featuring a much more focused straight-eighth rhythmic structure, the song is in your face in all the right ways. Moving from section to section in a catchy, albeit more formulaic fashion, this one is really enjoyable and fun to listen to. The guitar solo outro rips! Similarly, “Joe’s Fat Riff” – with a title that is rather tongue-in-cheek – features instrumentation and the majority of the vocal dripping in fuzz and distortion. With riffs that would make Jack White proud, this is more of a straight-ahead rocker. Nevertheless, it’s great, though this listener wishes it were a bit longer.

Closing song “You Broke Me First” delivers a painful lyric on what sounds like a voice memo recording of vocals and acoustic guitar. It starkly contrasts the rest of the record, but is no less captivating than the rest of the material. In a way, the intimacy and vulnerability of the tune really catches the ears off-guard. The picking pattern ranges from simple to using polyrhythms in certain areas, further adding to how interesting the song is.

Canella, comprised of Juliana Castrillón on vocals and guitar, Dan Carr on drums, Joe Taurone on bass, and Gabe Klingler-Horn on lead guitar, have released a tremendous debut album. Combining elements of punk-rock, alternative, and Latin American rhythms, along with continuously powerful lyrics, it’s a captivating listen through-and-through. Check it out for yourself here.

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