Indigo Mateo‘s the name, surprising you is her game, and at no point during the entire length of her sophomore album did I feel like I knew what was coming next. Indigo’s musical plasticity takes you on a sinuous journey across a long scenic neon-lit highway in which sharp turns and flashy signs obscure the view, throwing curve balls and unexpected twists every so often, teaching you only to expect the unexpected.
Indigo’s sounds Is difficult to pinpoint exactly on the map and to call it “patchwork” would perhaps lead you to believe it is hastily mish-mashed together like some Frankenstein’s monster when it is in fact anything but. The production is absolutely top-notch, and for as many left-field elements it shoots at you in its upbeat barrage of energetic melodies and amazing vocals, there is also an underlying tone and cohesive direction that makes this very eclectic album still look like it was all cut from the same cloth by a seamstress who knows her business.
Indigo’s origin story places her blood all over the Caribbean and even the Pacific. This New Jersey lady has roots in El Salvador, Puerto Rico and Honduras. So I personally find it not surprising in the least that her musical instincts have resulted in this true “Pluribus Unum” sensibility for sound and inclination to concert a piecemeal set of influences together in a single mighty plate, full of attitude and as many layers as you can possibly fit into 11 songs.
Co-written and produced by Richie Reseda, this fiery and complex album is a “healing collection of records made to dance, cry, sing, and heal to.” that stands on its solid and exotic composition to deliver a touching sense of vulnerability and personal closeness.
The First two tracks on the list are “Singleplay” and “Afterlife” respectively, and they each play really well off each other with ethereal and vaporwave adjacent atmospheres contrasted by their more tangible R&B and Pop beats and melodies at the foreground. Afterlife in particularly dips quite a bit into Future-Funk and bubblegum pop to deliver both its lyrical themes and its positive and infectious energy.
Employing some digital modulation on Indigo’s smooth vocals, track #3 “IRL” plays off its digital-age themes with a much smaller and more conservative -or personal- soundscape that still exudes a whole tone playfulness and personality. It is a much more subdued vibe than the previous two tracks and it relies on both delicate synth sounds and a trippy/angelic vocal performance to accomplish this 90s retro-futuristic vibe that I really appreciated.
After a very smooth segway in terms of tone from “IRL,” we find ourselves bopping to the 4th track. “New Wave” becomes a pretty good example of what the whole album is about; if not lyrically and energetically-wise, at least in terms of the wide variety of sounds. This song is almost an entire galore all on its own of the layered complexities I mentioned earlier, like there are sounds that show up at certain moments in the song and they never seem to show up again, and nevertheless, none of it feels disjointed or overcrowded, on the contrary it feels a lot like a mosaic of different sounds and instruments putting just a bit of a flair here and there to enrich the totality of the work.
So far, Indigo’s vocal performances have been very far from monotone, but we have only explored her pop and R&B capabilities. “Everything I want” marks a bit of a turning point in the album. In this track in particular, Indigo steps firmly into hip-hop territory, accompanied by a more minimalistic and trap-adjacent beat, she raps her heart out with a fast, killing flow that hits out of nowhere. Her rhymes are dexterous and full of intent, the whole track has a very strong bite to it, though have to admit I am not personally a big fan of the minimalistic, dry, beat-centric trend in hip-hop in general.
Another left-field hit, “Trust” is a classic piano-and-singer ballad enhanced by an ethereal background soundscape that widens the whole song beyond the intimate singer-instrument dynamics at play. Here we can explore and really take in Indigo’s amazingly beautiful voice in a much more thorough manner. All through the track she delivers a very heart-felt performance with an absolutely impeccable technique, making this one my clear favorite so far.
Following “Trust” can only be done with a change in speed, usually songs that emotionally charge tend to eclypse everything around them and something is needed to “clear the air” as it were. That is what “James’ Interlude” and “My 1” are for.
The first is a simple ethereal interlude that sets up the very catchy soft pop anthem after it. “My 1” doesn’t entirely let go of the ethereal pedal, but it does manage to recapture 90s-2000s pop with frightening efficacy, and if you look at the art for each single you’ll see that this is something entirely intentional on behalf of Mateo and Reseda. They seem to really have a genuine appreciation for this sort of campy, tongue-in-cheek early internet vibe without going full retro or nostalgic.
As much as I loved “Trust”, song number 9 quickly overshadows it. “Element” is without a doubt my absolute favorite song in the album. It is catchy, fresh, layered, unique and chock full of personality, it is everything the rest of the album is but just more focused and refined. I particularly appreciated the modulated(?) acoustic guitar tactically deployed here. The lyrics evoke the beach as much as the music does and being a beach lover myself, I can’t help but feel there’s some additional bias at play here.
“Way 2 Go” is yet another surprising track, it’s probably the most difficult one to label in terms of genre, and it boast some absolutely gorgeous composition that matches the equally gorgeous and emotional vocal performance in the chorus. “Way 2 Go” is sweet, uplifting, and groovy without sacrificing any “realness” on behalf of catchiness. If I listen to it too much, it might just replace “Trust” for my number one favorite on the album.
At the end of things, the aptly named “Restart” comes up. Why aptly named you ask? well, if you’re not restarting the album after this song is through, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Though I don’t feel like it’s as strong as “Element” and “Way 2 Go”, it is a much better send-off for the album than those two, and it’s really only song that could have closed this fantastic album off. It goes back to echo “My 1” with its ability to encapsulate a bygone era of music perfectly while staying true to the forward-thinking and unique sound that’s characterized the production so far, it is an excellent song on its own, but it stands stronger still in its position as the finishing move that this wonderful artist pulls off for us.
It’s hard to determine what percentage of the sound lands on whose hands here, but If I may be so bold as to assume and suggest: I think Mateo and Reseda struck gold together here and should by no means cease to making this kind of magic together. On talent alone, Indigo will fare well anywhere she goes, that much I know, but the insane musical textures and soundscapes she presents her voice with on this album really elevates things to levels and places I did not foresee coming into it. There’s just so much to listen to and unpack here, so many little details and quirks to appreciate, and the way it’s all weaved together in ways that amaze you every single time.
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photos / courtesy of the artist
story / Samuel Aponte