Ely Guerra – Sweet & Sour, Hot y Spicy

3 out of 5

Label: EMI

Produced by: Various

Several years after her US debut – but third album – Lotofire, Ely Guerra would return with the interestingly named Sweet & Sour, Hot y Spicy, the album’s tracks also seemingly split up into representative halves. The combination of the ampersand and the Spanish ‘y’ is notable, as is the presence of five producers across the twelve tracks… and while we get the same mix of rock and pop and electronic flourish as was found on her previous disc, Sweet is, perhaps as per that jumbled album name and lengthy list of knob-twiddlers, not nearly as seamless. It has a lot of highs, and surprises: Guerra really pushes her vocals here, lilting back and forth between songbird and aggro shouts, masterfully controlling tone and intensity; the music pulses with some searing guitar bits, and quite a focus on percussion, with “extras” – keys, electronics – sprinkled throughout just so. But it also feels a bit kitchen sink-y by the same standard: the split-album theme does not come to fruition, and the production – across all five producers – seems split between pitching Ely as fronting a live band, or glossing this up for radio play. This allows for those surprises – a lot of punch and attitude packed into the music – but also is mixed such that only Ely and the drums get much focus, which is fine, except when the other elements are, compositionally, of equal importance. And while I don’t speak Spanish, I recognize a lot of phrases here; combined with the couple English tracks, I suspect the attempted theme of the disc watered down the words, also.

The thing is: this is still an incredibly exciting album, but it’s a mixed bag in presentation, and that mix makes it, for me, very repeatable, but also not very impactful.