Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas
Telephone / Telephono
I’m always happy to hear good things coming from Detroit. God knows the city has been through hell. While much of the city looks like a ghost town, the arts have been offering a glimmer of hope in desperate times. Hernandez is a Detroit girl with Cuban/Mexican heritage. On her second full-length album, Hernandez pays tribute to her complicated heritage by releasing Telephone in both an English and Spanish versions.
Telephone is the soundtrack to an imaginary movie set in Havana, Mexico City and Detroit. I hear a lot of throwbacks Detroit of the late ’70s in “Hot Damn”. It has bit of Clash guitar crunch with Lene Lovich experimentalist theatrics. “Bad at Loving You” has a harsh electronic tone that blends with salsa rhythms. “Hummingbird” makes me think of an otherworldly techno band trying to do reggae in an episode of Doctor Who. I could go on with analogies, but let’s just say that Jessica has been collecting the debitage of the last 50 years of underground musical sounds and blending them in layers that sound at once familiar and completely unique. This is garage rock burnished to high gloss sheen. This is pop music dirtied up with weirdness and unexpected twists that keep it away from the disposable auto tune pop heap.
As I mentioned at the top of this review, Telephone is available in a Spanish version as well as an English version. The Spanish language version was worked out in Mexico City with producer Camilo Froideval. Hernandez took great pains to make the Spanish versions reflect the ideas she was trying to express in songs she wrote in English. Sometimes, she had to completely reimagine the lyric for it to work in another language. Hernandez told NPR that she wanted her grandmother, who doesn’t speak English well, to be able to enjoy her music. She also wanted to reach out to fans that are Hispanic Americans; to show them it’s ok to be an American who also embraces the cultures of their parents and grandparents. When you think about it, isn’t that really what America is all about?