Maria Usbeck has announced her sophomore album, Envejeciendo, outAugust 16 on Cascine. Following her 2016 debut LP Amparo, which was co-produced by Chairlift’s Caroline Polacheck, Envejeciendo (Spanish for “aging”) is a concept album exploring the universal obsession with youth and our preoccupation with growing older. Told with humor and tenderness, the record is an eccentric collection of dreamlike pop songs, sung in a mix of English and Spanish.
Today, Usbeck also shares the album’s first single “Amor Anciano,” which she notes is, “a song I wrote after having two different conversations, one with my grandmother, the other with an elderly man I met in New Zealand. They both talked about their long lost loves, about the ones who got away, as if they could’ve lived entirely different lives if they chose the other person to spend them with. It wasn’t a regretful conversation, just older people reflecting on past romance and letting the stories play out a bit.” Hear “Amor Anciano” here: http://bit.ly/amoranciano-soundcloud.
The tracks on Envejeciendo are anchored in the NYC-based, South America-raised musician’s personal experiences with adulthood. After recently forcing herself out of a depressive, aging-induced slump, Usbeck was determined to have fun with the subject matter. The album is peppered with personal anecdotes and nods to her firsthand fieldwork into the aging process. Particularly moving are the samples of a recorded interview with Usbeck’s late Ecuadorian grandmother, who speaks animatedly about her girlhood suitors and imagines what her life could have been had she married someone else. It’s this tone of nostalgic joy, coexisting with curiosity for futures both impossible and unrealized, that runs throughout Envejeciendo.
For Usbeck, even cloudier subject matter like elderliness and death is rife with humor and optimism, evidenced in her buoyant brand of sunshine-dappled pop music. Flanked by drum machines and mirror-polished production, Usbeck imagines a futuristic version of retirement homes that are more like “really fun hotels,” robot caretakers, and Brave New World-esque rejuvenation drugs. Sonically, there are still ties to the Latin American textures of her childhood — the ones that informed her last album, the tropical bricolage Amparo — but here, those textures are filtered through the 80’s synth pop and early 90’s tech-house fixations of Usbeck’s teenage years.
Born in Quito, Ecuador, she moved to the states at 17 to attend art school, and found herself fronting the new wave band Selebrities. But, after five years of singing in English, the polyglot decided to let her mother tongue speak.Amparo, Usbeck’s 2016 Caroline Polacheck co-produced solo debut, was a return to her Latin American roots, sung almost entirely in Spanish, written and recorded across Ecuador, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Barcelona, Lisbon, Easter Island, Costa Rica, Florida, L.A. and her home in Brooklyn.