by: Miranda!

Miranda's Magistral has been hailed as a sort of return to their roots by a band that was once truly original, but whose unexpected international success has been unequivocally steering them in the direction of generic Latin pop. Rather than a return to basics, however, Magistral is more of a hybrid between old and new. In the former category belongs the obsession with 1980's techno pop, which is nowhere more evident that in the "oooh oh" vocoder chorus that opens the album and seems lifted from a Human League or Howard Jones single. But aside from the obligatory ballad ("10 Años Después") and one midtempo number ("A la distancia"), eight-tenths of this album comprises giddy dance-pop cuts that evoke the days of colorful, painfully mismatched clothing and ridiculous hairdos. On the other hand, just like Miranda's last two albums, Magistral was produced by multiple Latin Grammy-winner Cachorro López, and is sonically a far cry from the band's quirky, amateurish, yet utterly captivating beginnings. Also lyrically, Miranda have significantly toned down their mischievous side, and while Alejandro Sergi is still capable of coming up with catchy phrases (not to mention hooks and melodies), maturity and mainstream harmlessness have taken their toll on what used to make Miranda so much fun and occasionally slightly perverse. Finally, the group's foremost identifying feature has always been the vocal interplay between Sergi and Julianna Gattas, often so intertwined that it was hard to tell boy and girl apart. This added an impishly androgynous feel to the characters and situations described which was crucial to Miranda's identity. Here, while the duo often trade lines of soap opera-like dialogue in true Pimpinela style, by and large, the singers take clearly defined turns that diminish the band's previous originality. Moreover, Gattas' vocal presence is noticeably more prominent than in the past, giving Magistral an overall feel that is fairly different from previous albums. Songwise, this is a solid but hardly spectacular crop, the absence of stand-out singles (a first for this band, even if "Dice Lo Que Siente," "Ya Lo Sabía," and "No Pero No" are all almost great) compensated for by consistent quality and a short running time. In brief, Magistral is a good Miranda album. It's not as inspired or creative as their first two efforts, but it is less uneven and less vapid than El Disco de Tu Corazón or Es Imposible, but it is an effort that will ultimately neither add nor subtract much from their discography. ~ Mariano Prunes

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