There’s plenty to love about Ma Raison De Vivre Ton Amour, the second outing from Dish, but the verdict is still out over the disc’s most engaging attribute. Is it the vocals of Roberto Aguilar, the eerie way his wail channels Jeff Buckley at his always-familiar, rock-inflected peaks? Or is it the junk percussion of brother Nathaniel Aguilar, the jagged and inventive backbone of the duo? No matter your answer, this disc, out now on ROA Records, will transfix you – and for all the right reasons.
The disc begins with what, for lack of a better term, could be called a spiritual number or even a work song, the voices multi-tracked over the banging of a metal rail and a hubcap. But, after that 90-second introduction, Ma Raison De Vivre Ton Amour kicks into gear with “Cold Is,” a bright pop-rock nugget with plenty of hooks and a fist-pumping chorus. From there, the disc simply carries you from one great moment to the next. There’s “This Ain’t Livin’,” where Roberto Aguilar largely sets the pace with a shuffling acoustic guitar, and “Tired of Writing Songs,” which unfurls a lullaby guitar line over clattering percussion. On “Closer Dead,” Nathaniel Aguilar dresses up a pensive verse with the occasional pop of found percussion. On the sensual “Pictora” or the driving “Flutter,” the junk, the way those notes spike and jump out of the speakers, nearly steals the show.
The disc is also nothing if not diverse. At one turn, these guys are refining the art of the low-key (the trippy “The Song I Couldn’t Say,” the ballad “I Will Run For Our Love”). Then, without stumbling, they shift to the grandiose, from the country-and-western-tinged “Letter To You” to the excellent “Flutter,” which fleshes out its refrains with trumpet, trombone, French horn and tuba.
There are too many great moments on the 16-song disc to list, from the jazzy swing-and-sway of “I Saw A Bird” to the poppy humor of “Zombie Love Song” to “Death and Romance,” which begins with vibraphone but ends a dirgy barnburner. The disc ends with “Because The End Is Near,” where the brothers Aguilar again accompany the proceedings with horns. But, here the mood is reflective, a moment of pause at the end of 53 incredible minutes. It’s a calming curtain-close, almost an antidote to the heightened pop-rock pulse of it all. Not if only we could determine to which element of the band we should pledge our allegiance. – Delusions of Adequacy, June 17, 2009