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Manu Chao Proxima Estacion: Esperanza Virgin Records

There is a global underground cult following of Manu Chao, the mysterious guitarist who ignites everything in his path. The eclectic French musician blends a North African influence with sounds of California surf guitar and an ever-present Latin swing, producing dream-like tracks as he switches languages mid-song. Jazzy flavors and trumpets resound with minstrel voices on backup, and well-timed minor notes combine to produce a multicultural, multilingual, and multidimensional experience. He sings in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English, and each track layers sounds from different pieces of life; doors opening and closing, radio announcers announcing, children asking questions, voices echoing in hallways, all converging in danceable tracks that are full of radiance.

Voted "Best World Music Artist" at Les Prix Victoires (the French Grammys), Manu Chao is a multi-platinum superstar in Europe who lures hundreds of thousands of people at his high energy South American and US shows. His style is unique, encompassing feelings of chaos, love, life and spinning universes while merging funky reggae beats, electro-Latin quirkiness and pop-flamenco styles. The effect is like running away with the circus, or ascending through the eye of a tornado into the center of a distant galaxy. His lyrics touch on issues of love and sex, and hit political notes of liberation while giving a shout out to the Zapatistas. While his first release Clandestino is simply better all around, Proxima Estacion provides some multi-layered tracks that guide us through a subconscious auditory world. Songs blend into one another and harmonic sequences from one track come back around in later ones, while energetic beats and ironic songs will keep the head bopping. Once again, Manu Chao is the essence of the irresistible trickster romantic. - Sari Heifetz

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