Rene Lopez’s last album, E.L.S. (short for Electric Latin Soul, a term he coined to describe the sound he had been working on), landed at number 12 on this site’s Best of 2011 list. Influenced by salsa, boogaloo, hip hop, meringue and old school hip hop, the album sounds warmly familiar – the sounds you’d likely hear coming from car stereos and apartments in Jackson Heights, Corona, Spanish Harlem, the Lower East Side (pre 1995 or so), and of the South Bronx. It’s a loving homage to the seemingly universally beloved sounds of Latino New York but with a modern re-interpreation through some playfully inventive genre mashing. And the material which often employs huge, club-banging beats manages to swing and saunter with an amiable charming, swagger much like Lopez himself.
Over the past year or so, Lopez with his backing band has been writing and recording material for a new album titled Paint the Moon Gold. I’ve heard some of the material off the new album during a couple of Lopez’s most recent Rockwood Music Hall sets. Although the material possess some familiar elements as it still draws from the salsa and meringue of his youth and of his late father, Rene Lopez, Sr., it also manages to represent a change in direction sonically for the younger Lopez. Simply put the sound is less electric, more soul.
If you were familiar with Rene Lopez’s previous work, you’ll notice that the compositions still manage to deftly blur the traditional lines of genre but a bit more subtly, and the arrangements on compositions such as the instrumental, summer jam-like “Come Along Now” are stripped down to just live instrumentation. – guitar, bass, drums, horns, flute, etc. And yet the composition doesn’t lose it’s complexity. With a smoove but funky groove, the song possesses elements of 70s soul and salsa. To me it sounds quite a bit like Mandrill meets Simply Bill-era Bill Withers. In other words, it’s the sound of hanging out at a Saturday afternoon barbecue, while you chat up that fine young thang from up the street.