Cuco - Fantasy Gateway Music Album Reviews

Cuco - Fantasy Gateway Music Album Reviews
The bedroom-pop breakout star steps up his craft on his second album, experimenting with a bigger, more opulently produced sound, but his emotional attunement remains key to his appeal.

Part of a new generation of bedroom-pop stars, Omar “Cuco” Banos first broke out with a cover of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk” recorded in his actual bedroom. Yet by disposition, Cuco comes across as a sleepless soul: Together with his fellow homebody hustlers Clairo, Rex Orange County, and Billie Eilish, Cuco helped cultivate a new world of up-close yet emotionally distant pop that beckoned to millions of Gen Z streamers, a restless space existing somewhere between dissociative pop and lo-fi study beats. They are the doom-scrolling faces of this planet, joy-starved hearts straining behind exhausted eyes that can only telegraph, “life is pain it’s cool tho.”

Practically overnight, Cuco’s four-walled waviness exploded onto open-air stages in front of thousands of fans. So the question that hung over the singer, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist’s 2019 debut LP, Para Mí, was how a young artist who found his voice in dimly lit solitude is supposed to adjust to the spotlight. He’s far from the only internet-native pop star to be confronted with that quandary, but so far he’s done a commendable job of maintaining his own pace. He rejected the major labels’ advances until one agreed to his terms in full. He bought himself a house on the block where he grew up, five doors away from his parents. He’s not letting life bully him into speeding up and losing control.

On Fantasy Gateway, Cuco is still wrestling with what this relatively newfound exposure means for him. His confident answer: continuing to be himself, this time under the bright lights. Recording in several studios and testing out a more elaborately produced sound, he gamely steps up his craft on his second LP without drastically altering his voice as a songwriter. He still plugs terse confessions about fighting inner demons into shuffling hooks and verses with carefree swagger, a magnetic paradox immediately apparent on the breezily bouncing “Caution.” Co-producers Manuel Lara and Andrés Rebellón—variously credited as co-writers on 11 of the 12 songs—both help to fit Cuco’s affably modest, CR-V-cruising personality into the luxurious new trappings as naturally as it gelled with his comparatively lo-fi early work. “Sitting in the Corner” may not have needed Kacey Musgraves on backing vocals, but the song delivers; the other guest vocalist, Adriel Favela, plays off Cuco’s malaise with howling, heartsick verses about lost love. A beat-driven jewel of norteño-inflected pop, it’s one of the crown achievements here, worthy of being cranked out of the windows of your Honda or Bentley for the rest of the summer.

Some awkward fits are to be expected when trying on new, bigger clothes, and Fantasy Gateway has its growing pains. They tend to come when Cuco wallows in his comfort zone of melancholic psychedelia. “Paraphonic” is rife with digital flourishes, but he sounds flat and uninspired within the excess. “When the Day Comes to an End” and “Sweet Dissociation” nod to his obvious soft spot for Tame Impala, but don’t do much more than pay homage. Cuco successfully shakes himself out of his lulls by changing pace and trying out different styles and tempos. He proves his versatility on a string of three consecutive highlights: The lush, Lionel Richie-esque slow jam “Artificial Intelligence” feeds an intricate, brassy instrumental outro into “Fin Del Mundo,” a stripped-down duet with Bratty; that song then glides into the laid-back “Time Machine,” where underneath all the spacey synths, handclaps, and arpeggios lies a plainly beautiful folk song about regret.

The album ends with one of his boldest pivots, “Decir Adios,” a ballad in which he pushes his voice out of its emotional straits to belt out his sadness. Wherever he goes from here, Cuco’s ability to break through the surface of apathy will remain important to his art—it’s been key to his appeal from the start. At one of those early festival sets a couple years back, as Cuco and his band approached the end of his wistful breakup waltz “We Had to End It,” he took a third trumpet solo. Where the first two paddled serenely along the song’s surface, now he surfed like a maniac with nothing to lose, jabbing into a trill that could resuscitate your cold, dead heart. The crowd went wild. The trumpet isn’t the point; Cuco is a former band kid, but the instrument could have been a harmonica, a theremin, a scream. The beauty of the moment was in how he momentarily shone a blacklight on the invisible ink of the “agony and pain” he’d been singing about 30 seconds earlier. Courageous moments like these, which still occasionally poke through Fantasy Gateway’s newfound shine, should serve him long after he fully breaks out of the bedroom.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Cuco - Fantasy Gateway Music Album Reviews Cuco - Fantasy Gateway Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Saturday, August 06, 2022 Rating: 5

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