Sound — 10
Rodrigo y Gabriela is a Latin guitar duo that plied their trade in the streets of Mexico City before their subsequent success in Europe. Playing exclusively nylon string acoustic guitars, they incorporate a surprising amount of rock and metal tendencies into their Latin and classical base. In fact, they have used such an increasing amount of rock and metal progressions/techniques/phrasings that this album, the band's third of original material, feels much more rock and metal than Latin and classical. In addition, Rodrigo y Gabriela dedicate each of the album's nine songs to a dead person who has either had a large influence on the guitar or on themselves. For guitarists, it's worth noting that the deluxe version of this album contains an additional DVD where Rodrigo y Gabriela give detailed instructions on how to play their guitar parts for the song "Russian Messenger," albeit in broken somewhat broken English.
The first question that begs an answer is how can a band succeed at writing metal music using two nylon string acoustic guitars and nothing else?
The answer is that Rodrigo ("y" is Spanish for "and") y Gabriela are a truly dynamic duo. This may sound cliché, but it feels like they use their guitars to speak to each other during songs; their parts compliment each other with galvanic excitement. Rodrigo primarily plays the melodies and guitar solos. Essentially, he plays the higher register of guitar sounds, thus his parts stand out in the listener's mind. Rodrigo does an excellent job in his own right, managing to write melodies every song that have distinct, often exciting vibes. Meanwhile, his parts retain enough complexity that each new listen to them seems to open new doors to their secrets.
The other half of the equation is Gabriela. She is the percussionist.
If only it were that simple.
While she spends much of her time playing six string chords that serve as the base for Rodrigo's melodies, she also makes a wide variety of percussive sounds by hitting the guitar.
To put her playing into perspective, my mind wanders back a couple of years ago to a YouTube guitarist, Jon Gomm, who wowed me with his ability to use his guitar very "economically" in that he used all the parts of the guitar to his advantage. Today Gabriela blows me away so much more. Aside from the fact that she sets the pace and dynamics for all of the songs, she uses her percussion in so many creative ways that it makes Jon Gomm look like a beginner. She moves her fingers with such a speed and accuracy that it would put any shredder to shame. In reality, Gabriela's deftness with her instrument cannot truly be expressed in words; it's better to watch one of the band's many videos. Even then, it's hard to fully understand what she is doing; Gabriela can't even explain it in her instructional video (or it could just be the language barrier). Aside from the astounding amount of dexterity with which Gabriela wields her instrument, she exhibits great taste; her parts never fail to beautifully complement Rodrigo's, always perfectly straddling the line between percussion and melody.
In terms of the songwriting specifically, Rodrigo y Gabriela continue to show growth as songwriters, crafting in my opinion, their best, most diverse album yet. Aside from the increasing amount of rock and metal influences that would draw a contemporary guitarist in, the songwriting is practically flawless. In terms of pure playing and songwriting harmony, Rodrigo y Gabriela are the tightest guitar duo I have ever heard.
Lyrics — 9
This album is entirely instrumental. As to me not giving this album straight 10s across the board, I think only history can declare an album as a true classic, and therefore worthy of the perfect score. And this album, I think, is not the best album I've ever heard... but it's certainly the best I've heard in a while.
Overall Impression — 10
Maybe my love for this album will wear after a couple of weeks. Yes, "Sunday Neurosis" does seem to drag at points. No I was not paid to unequivocally praise this album.
When I think of how to rate an album, I picture a steadily rising slope on a graph, but then, right where "good" meets "great" there is a hump. There are a lot of good albums, but the far majority of them fall short of greatness, and therefore classic status. This album goes above and beyond, definitely a classic in my book, maybe even the best album of the year. Everything on it is perfect bliss. This album manages to cover so much ground on a musical spectrum while remaining enthralling for pretty much the whole way through. Such a complete album is rarely written. Of course, it is unlikely that the album will even chart in many areas, let alone be considered one of the best albums of the year.
So, since you probably won't hear about this album ever again, please give it a listen. It's just too awesome to ignore.