Issue #75: Déjenme Llorar by Carla Morrison
July 24, 2017
Released On March 26, 2012
Released By Cosmica Records
It was 3 A.M. when I first heard Carla Morrison’s voice singing “Eres Tu” in the dark. I was so taken aback by her simplicity and effortless talent that I listened to the track another ten times, never quite caring about the fact that I was losing sleep. Rather, it was Morrison’s music that relaxed me and brought me peace.
I’ll come right out and say that I barely understand Spanish. The extent of my knowledge of the language is bathed in the little amount I recall from high school classes and the few friends I have that speak it regularly. Despite this, I don’t think one needs to understand the lyrics to Morrison’s music to know that what she’s done is great. In fact, it is the barrier of speech itself that inspired me to re-discover what I know about Spanish and to try and better understand it.
My relationship with Latin music goes back to age 14 when I had a Spanish teacher who would share plenty of popular Latin music videos with us every week. I was exposed to everything from Tito El Bambino to Juan Luis Guerra (both of whom continue to make me laugh, cry, and dance to their music). I was hooked, but unsure of where to start in this genre I had discovered for myself. With so much to explore, I felt overwhelmed and made the decision to take baby steps.
I discovered Carla Morrison on my own. It felt like I knew a secret that no one else did. There was something inherently angelic about her presence in music — always soft, subdued, with a hint of melancholy. Reading her lyrics in English felt wrong, and I stopped after I checked out a couple of her songs from Déjenme Llorar. That’s not to say that I don’t want to know what her message is; quite the opposite actually. But allow me to elaborate.
Music is designed to move us. Whether it be physically, mentally, or emotionally, we are drawn to the art because it is as vague or specific as you allow yourself to interpret it. When an artist writes a song, the meaning does not cease to evolve then. When the song is exposed to the world and shared with the general public, it goes through a transformation process.
The meaning according to the songwriter is no longer the most relevant aspect to the song (unless you care enough about that sort of thing). What becomes important is the way that song makes you feel. How it makes you want to dance, make love, burn something, create, destroy. You get the picture.
Carla Morrison taught me this lesson: If you just let the song evolve and breathe and transform as you grow with it, it can be extremely empowering. There is a strength in taking back that power. In interpreting a song the way you want to, just purely based on the sound alone. I’ve learned that words are quite useless in the grand scheme of things (and I say this as an avid writer). Words are bound by barriers and complexities that can only do so much. Sound is universal. Music is powerful. Let it empower you.
Catherine Dempsey (@coffincutieee)
Emo Kid Seeking Hardcore Band
Indie pop full of fascinating vocals & lavish arrangements that gorgeously transcends the language barrier.
“Off whose radar?” I thought after doing a little research on Carla Morrison. Definitely mine, but with Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations (and one award), sold out shows across Mexico, millions of views on YouTube, and half a million followers on Spotify, I would hesitate to claim that she is off your radar. If she is, then I feel it is a privilege for me and my OYR colleagues to introduce you to an extraordinary artist. She had a lengthy apprenticeship before making Déjenme Llorar, her first full-length album, and it shows in her complete assurance in composing and executing these charming songs of, I assume, love and loss. Her voice does not have an exceptional range and is a little quirky but her singing is never mannered. On the contrary, she seems to be communicating with you directly, as if you were sitting next to her at a bar having a heart to heart. This intimacy is well served by the stripped down arrangements, centered around acoustic guitar, bass and drums, with touches of strings, keys, and brass. The only slightly negative observation I could make about this essentially perfect album is that it mostly occupies a similar range throughout, harmonically and tempo-wise. Some critics said the same thing about Avalon when that Roxy Music masterpiece was released, to which Bryan Ferry responded, “Avalon is a mood,” which could also be said about Déjenme Llorar. And it’s a mood I love sinking into more each time I hear it, bringing to mind such favorites as Holly Miranda, Patsy Cline, and Brazilian chanteuse Mallu Magalhães. The whole album is great, but if you’re feeling shy, start with “Tu Orgullo” (“Your Pride”) — three melancholy chords and the truth. Déjenme Llorar means “Let Me Cry,” and I will, but it’s also wonderful to hear her laugh a little at the end of the final song, “Falta de Respeto.” It’s such a raw recording (think Spoon’s “The Agony Of Laffitte“), but that little giggle makes me know that she’ll be okay. She made me care about her, so much so that I’m already going all in with the alternate takes on the deluxe edition and looking forward to delving into translations of the lyrics, not to mention listening to her second album. My final thought is about marketing. Yes, she sings in Spanish, but there is little beyond that to place this in a “Latin” compartment. Word should be spread to all listeners adventurous enough to not let a little language barrier get in the way of pursuing the pleasure principle, whether they like Latin music or not. I guess that’s our job and, if you’ve read this far, the rest is up to you.
Jeremy Shatan (@anearful)
Prescient & Appreciative Musical Omnivore
Sometimes, it seems the universe hands you what you need at the time you need it most. I’ve recently made a conscious effort to expose myself to more Latinx music, on account of the fact that I’m ethnically 50% Mexican (and 50% Caucasian) but have not really had a life filled with much of the culture — I can barely even hold a conversation in my rough grasp of the Spanish language. This has all led to something of a cultural alienation, where I’m not really a typical white American, but I also don’t have a strong connection to the Mexican part of my heritage. And now I have a Mexican album dropped into my lap thanks to Off Your Radar, and it couldn’t have been timelier. Baja California native Carla Morrison has crafted an understated, beautiful album in Déjenme Llorar, a lengthy rumination on the aftermath of a relationship and the wide range of pain, confusion, and sorrow that comes with it. Morrison’s voice is high and pure, almost childlike in its tone, but there is a world-weariness buried deep within to balance it out. And her songs are intensely vulnerable in their discussion of her feelings and state of mind, much in the same way someone like Sharon Van Etten uses her music to bare her soul and purge the demons left behind by a relationship. And yet, through all the pain and darkness present in songs like “Duele” (“It Hurts”) and title-track “Déjenme Llorar (“Let Me Cry”), there’s a warmth and light in Morrison’s music. Indeed, this album has ended up comforting me greatly this past week, for even though I still need translations to fully understand her words, they felt like home.
David Munro (@david_c_munro)
Idiosyncratic Avant-Garde Wanderer
Right away, with opener, “Apague mi Mente,” Carla Morrison puts forth a delicacy that is befitting of a quiet evening — perhaps one tinged with just a touch of somberness or, at the very least, thoughtful reflection. Then from there, the looseness and ad-hoc character with which Déjenme Llorar is imbued, makes Morrison’s songs convey as all the more organic; designated to be music of emotive display, rather than fanciful audio trend. Ambient sounds like finger slides on guitar strums and upright bass plucks are allowed to remain rather than be filtered out. Reverb paired with a highly compressed room sound juxtapose a sense of lingering via longer sustain and a sense of sonic confinement. Morrison plays with the projected quality and placement of her voice, (a little audio panning and fader level adjustment can go a long way in giving an otherwise unprocessed track some interesting quality!) as well as her supporting instrumental arrangements, throughout the album. Beyond the literal listed parts heard, this trait of production is the other stylistic hallmark listeners can takeaway from Déjenme Llorar, even if they know not a single syllable of Spanish. That said, looking from a slightly more micro point of view, some aspects of individuality from track to track are truly pleasant surprises; the slow tempo Motown and-or surf pop melodic hook that opens “Eres Tu” marries well with its lyrics, which include a good amount of rounded vowel and “ooo” sounds, (“Estar aquí otro momento / Eres tu”) thus lending themselves well — vocally speaking — to the swaying, legato style delivery Morrison gives. Déjenme Llorar might be requesting a teary release (“Let Me Cry”) but, even with its emotionally more serious moments and a musical palate that can keep company with either a rainy day or breezy summer night, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had when listening to this album.
Kira Grunenberg (@shadowmelody1)
Prolific Sonic Scribe & Unifier
Music can feel like a river sometimes: massive… infinite… transitory… and sometimes I wish it didn’t. It’s a pretty thought, but part of me — a significant part, judging by the amount of time each day I spend on Discogs — wants to hold onto music. To contain it. And I get frustrated when I can’t, like when an album I care about sells out before I can get a copy, or when I think of all the songs I’ve heard that will drift away in my consciousness without leaving a long-term memory. I can’t remember when or why I first heard Déjenme Llorar, though I’d guess this list of NPR‘s favorite albums from 2012 was involved. What I do know is that listening to the first 30 seconds of “Apague mi Mente” this week was like watching a memory paddle back upstream and emerge from the fog. That gorgeous bobbing back and forth between major and minor in the verse. The way the melody in the chorus crests so gracefully before ebbing. The use of glissando in the string arrangement, which gives it a dark fluidity that reminds me of Jonny Greenwood’s classical work. It all adds up to something stunningly beautiful, and I know I felt stunned when I first heard Déjenme Llorar. What I don’t know is why it floated away. “Olvidé” asks “How did it begin? Why did it end?” before resigning, “It faded.” Maybe I should resign by heeding the title of “Apague mi Mente” and turning my mind off… but not before thanking Catherine and Off Your Radar for bringing this wonderful album back to my spot on the river.
Davy Jones (@youhearthat)
Idealistic Seeker Of Neoteric Sounds
Perceptively shot to emphasize the song’s compelling narrative.
Every now and then, I run across a piece of music that is so far outside my usual listening patterns that I can’t imagine when I’d ever put it on willingly — and then I’m surprised and pleased to find that I love it. The prime example I can think of is that on the walk to work every day back when I worked in a mall, I had to walk past a high-end Italian restaurant blasting Frank Sinatra music out of its front doors. I ended up buying a Frank Sinatra album after a couple of months working that job. And I may very well end up buying a Carla Morrison album in another few weeks, because I am really thrilled about this random music that has ambushed me in the course of my regular work day as well. It doesn’t come totally out of nowhere; in some ways, this mellow, jazz-influenced record makes me think of a Jolie Holland record one of my exes used to play a lot. There are actually a lot of instruments on any given song here — the title track incorporates acoustic and electric guitars, brushed drums, what sure sounds like an acoustic guitar, a piano somewhere way back in the mix (I think), and some rich, multi-layered backing vocals. However, as with all of the songs here, it manages to convey an air of minimal instrumentation, a sound that makes you feel like Morrison’s voice is far out in front with very little behind it. Morrison herself does a lot to further drive this impression home, with her quirky yet powerful voice and her incredibly strong vocal and lyrical choices. I am able to understand quite a bit of Spanish even if my skills are probably too rusty for me to carry on a conversation these days, and I do pick up on a lot of the lyrics. However, these songs of love and loss still make a far more powerful impression on me as musical worlds than they do as communications of particular ideas and statements. Déjenme Llorar is an album of beautiful, emotionally evocative musical moments, ones that will grab your attention and sweep you away when you least expect it. This might not be something you’d listen to all the time, but once you hear it, you’ll probably want to keep it around.
Drew Necci (@buzzorhowl)
Insightful Scholar Of The Underground
My favorite song on this excellent award-winning album is “Sin Despedir,” quite possibly because of the crisp guitar part. I feel like I’ve happened upon her at a coffeehouse open mic and am sitting there, awestruck, as this amazing voice accompanies the entrancing guitar. My next favorite song, “Olvide,” is an entirely different animal. The voice is still there in all its glory, but the instrumentation almost feels like a lost hit of the 1960s, with its string quartet and plucked guitars and organ setting the tone in the background. It is followed (in the tracklist as well as in my heart) by “Hasta La Piel,” which strikes me as perfectly suited to soundtrack the opening credits of a Wild West romance. What all of this means is that Ms. Morrison is excellent at keeping her songs varied, which I love, and she is especially able to do this because her voice sounds amazing in any of the above contexts (as well as the myriad other contexts from other songs not mentioned here) and that is truly special, incredibly noteworthy, and unshakably memorable.
James Anderson (@unabashedjames)
Devoted Docent Of Musical Concepts
This album is so beautiful. I don’t speak Spanish, but so far this album has influenced me to do some pretty irrational things. I’ve texted my mom just to say I love you, I’ve glanced at my partner roughly 40 times just to make sure she is still happy in this relationship, and I’ve googled “moody holiday locations” twice now. Send help. I don’t know how long I’ll be under this spell but if you don’t hear from me next week, I’ve likely collapsed on the floor from a chocolate overdose. Forget Dido, Carla Morrison will be pulling at your heartstrings from now on. Déjenme Llorar feels like a heartfelt goodbye that can transcend language barriers and captivate even the most emotionally stable listeners. Haunting, well-paced, and genuine, Déjenme Llorar is an indie-pop masterpiece. Morrison’s performance is effortlessly powerful and touching her acoustic guitar is steady and complimented beautifully by a range of instruments dead set to make your heart throb. Perfect for broken hearts, rainy days, long walks around your childhood neighbourhood, and trying to convince yourself that your cat loves you back. I don’t usually recommend to listen to tracks out of sequence, but if you are not emotionally ready to for the full Déjenme Llorar experience, my favourite track is “Disfruto.” I highly recommend checking it out when you’re alone and ideally if you find yourself in need of a four-minute emotional cleanse. It’s so beautifully composed with the instrumentals seeming to swing steadily whilst cradling Morrison’s beautiful voice. As the song swells at the one minute forty-five seconds mark, I’m already fighting back tears. I cannot stress this enough. Fragile hearts beware, this album will break you.
Erin Calvert (@erinpcalvert)
Elder Goth In The Making
Her reserved, almost reticent vocals adds deep character to each song, making the listener feel the true weight of each song.
I think I know why the “less is more” strategy works so well. It’s because if you can truly execute this credo to letter of the law, it means your substance is so potent on its own that there’s no need for additional elements. For Carla Morrison, I’d say that’s definitely the case. Her soft, yet poignant voice drives home her message time and again, and regardless of any language barrier, the raw emotion behind her performances lets the listener know that what’s she’s saying is nothing less than heartfelt. Built mostly on slow, emotive, acoustic guitar driven sound beds, this record is a lesson in communicating “feelings.” Listening to someone in a foreign language is a very spiritual experience, I think. With no translation, we just let the notes and the harmonies and Morrison’s angst speak to us — painting a picture with the same colors that we’re all too familiar with. I was hooked immediately by the opening of “Apague mi Mente,” mainly because of the A Tribe Called Quest-esque opening baseline (I’ll be sampling that little number for sure). The track then swells into a kaleidoscope of silky strings wrapping themselves perfectly around Morrison’s lovely vocals. And then there’s “Maleza,” a moving ballad composed of piano and banjo and chanting backing harmonies. The vocal arrangements throughout the album are top shelf. “Eres Tu,” for example, seasons an otherwise ordinary acoustic groove with some well-placed harmonies for a lively chorus. But it all comes back to the potency of Morrison’s performances. She’s raw talent, and there’s so much strength in her soft spoken style that it carries the record from beginning to end. Less is Morrison.
Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford (@jclyde757)
Steadfast Hip-Hop Historian & Creator
Heat like this drives me outside. Muffled folds of Virginia humidity have nothing on the swelters of Alabama, where the siding lining your house, if you’re lucky enough to have central air, will bead like a glass of sweet tea. Playgrounds with swings that blow stifled air through your air, parks with grass that crushes like glass under the weight of your heels, still ranks higher than the stagnation of your 100 degree living room. Children who flail with the crashing waves of the ocean lay limp and heavy-breathing in their flushed sleep on the way home. My cat, Isobel, sprawls in the bottom of the dry bathtub, her fur more tolerable against the porcelain. From the ins and outs of the day, sweat curling the hair on the nape of my neck and tracing every joint of my skin, I survey the same empty alleyways, this time with iced lemonade from the freezer. When the heat breaks and a little breeze plays through the yard, I am silent, dreaming alongside Déjenme Llorar. Lullabies are played to coerce babies into sleep, but they can play for us too, when we are too dreamy from the blood rushing into cheeks, lips parted to expel our own heat. Placing us inside that daydreaming, hushed but living, space that can only come from the heat and summer and the sun, Déjenme Llorar is sweet but not saccharine, familiar but not unwelcome. Dramatic musical arrangements pair with high, husky vocals heard from those like Jewel and Feist, but rather than sink into their emotions, I am guided instead into my own. In the wake of oppressive heat, when it’s too hot to eat or smoke or fuck or move, the gently lilting, thoughtful tracks of Déjenme Llorar allow for a pleasant, swaying listen.
Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite
Despite what countless co-workers, delivery guys, and Netflix recommendations have thought over the years, I don’t actually speak Spanish. Given the number of NYC kitchens I’ve worked in, and my ethnic ambiguity, I kind of get it, but outside of being able to read the occasional subway advertisement, the fact remains that I don’t have even a conversational grasp on the language. So I can only imagine what my neighbors might have thought this past week when I put on Carla Morrison’s Déjenme Llorar. Most likely, their first thought was “Oh good, that grown man-child down the hall finally stopped listening to Taking Back Sunday,” but it was likely followed up with something along the lines of “Whatever he’s listening to confirms that he must speak Spanish.” As I’ve stated, I don’t, but in spite of this communication barrier I can still hear the pain and emotion channelled in Morrison’s songs. I can recognize words here and there, which helps to semi-understand what a song might be about, but what really stands out to me is the melancholy atmosphere — it’s a feeling that transcends the spoken word and is universally relatable. I hear the word “corazon” in “Maleza” and while I don’t know any of the other words in that same verse, I can tell entirely based on the tone of Morrison’s voice that she’s talking about her heart in a less than happy way. A quick Google search told me that the album title, Déjenme Llorar, approximately translates to “let me cry” and I can’t say that I’m surprised. It’s beautiful, haunting, and it makes me wish that I had continued taking Spanish past 10th grade.
Dustin Gates (@cmoncheermeup)
Relapsed Pop Culture Junkie
Carla Morrison’s music truly transcends the language barrier. Her voice, rich in the most subtle ways, pulls you into each song, making you yearn alongside her or pat your foot to the beat, all without having any real context to the song’s meaning. Yet it feels shallow to praise her album while talking about the language barrier, because this emotional weight of this music and its exquisite melodies should, under normal circumstances, stand on its own. Still, we live in the real world, and there’s a reason most reading this haven’t heard of this Grammy award winning albums that has sold tens of thousands of records. It’s that language barrier, a silly thing that ignorant people put more stock into than need be. In my own life, I’ve dealt with the language barrier enough to know that it is a feeble excuse, not a substantial problem. My inability to master ASL has always made communicating with my father… not easy, even if we developed our own short-hand at times, but I’d never say language held back our relationship. Later in life, my ignorance of Japanese and Spanish didn’t hold me back from falling in love with puroresu and lucha libre, nor did it stop me from working well with people speaking different languages in a variety of jobs and mediums. Going back to music, I never really sought out foreign language artists, but I was also never hesitant to take someone up on a recommendation. John Frusciante‘s little-known fake interview from 2009 led me to Renan Luce whose bouncy, affected vocals were too infectious to ignore, while some friends living in Japan pointed me to the playful world of Shugo Tokumaru, a world that has created some of the best melodies I’ve ever heard. Hell, I can remember being moved at a young age by Pavarotti’s rendition of “Nessun Dorma” even though I still have no idea what he’s singing about. Regardless of language, good music is good music, a designation Carla Morrision soars past with songs like “Duele” and “Tu Orgullo.” There, she could be speaking gibberish for all I care, and I’ll still hang off of every floaty note or ache with every vocal twist.
Doug Nunnally (@musicdoug)
Garrulous Aural Braggart
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Chosen By Kira Grunenberg