Album Review: Brian Lopez – Ultra


Brian Lopez, a soulful, curly-headed, Tucson-raised singer-songwriter has made his way on to my music radar and left a great first impression with his first solo, full-length album, album, Ultra.  Branching out from his role as the leader of experimental three-piece group Mostly Bears (which, according to Wikipedia, [awesomely] sounds like Radiohead circa 1996 getting in a gang-fight with Arcade Fire“), he brings a southwestern Latino charm into his melodic and orchestral yet laid-back and indie-vibed music, all while crafting a subtle dance between passion and weariness, overwhelming love and exhaustive sadness.

Opening track “Montjuic” kicks off the album with a tasty energy, and introduces the play between an urban-hipster feel and a traditional Spanish vibe–like “Chicago” with Little Miss Sunshine, it would fit in prefectly on a indie flick soundtrack about a quirky road trip. Nylon Magazine has jumped on the bandwagon of adoration with the track, saying “His music could be classified as Tex-Mex folk-rock (sounds tasty, right?); the sweeping melodies, Latin beats, and sighing cello are reminiscent of Tucson collective Calexico (one of my favorites), who, unsurprisingly, he’s played with.”

Continuing on, tracks such as “Red Blooded Rose” and “Maslow’s Hierarchy” will make you swoon and smile and sway, but only until you’re aware of the deep pathos that has crept in between the beauty.  The album has a few tracks in a dramatic, almost omnipotent Spanish tongue (“Leda Atomica”) and a few moments of more traditional Spanish-style music (“El Pajaro y El Ciervo”), but despite this, the album remains modern and young. It made me feel culturally knowledgeable for being able to enjoy something which was relatively foreign, too, so that’s cool.  The overall vibe of the album is chilled out, road-trip tested (approved!), yet not boring by any means.  The multitude of sounds (the current band configuration for Brian Lopez includes violin, cello, accordion, upright bass and lap steel…yeah) will keep you interested, and the moments of Spanish drama had me chuckling in awe (yes, that is a thing that happens).

With Ultra, musical comparisons to White Denim, thanks to a paradoxical duality of style–falsetto-ed but powerful vocals, dreamy but intricate and melodic guitars–and a stripped down My Morning Jacket (again, vocal comparisons and the overall strange and lovely vibe) are constantly reappearing in my brain, and this, if anything, only further solidifies Lopez’s musical prowess (and place in my heart).

Ultra drops on March 6th, and be sure to see Brian Lopez on tour–his next stop is at the Sail Inn in Phoenix, Arizona on March 2nd at 9pm. He also returns to L.A. (he recently played the Bootleg Theater) on April 3, playing the Echoplex with Heartless Bastards. Click here for a full tour schedule.