In 2013, Xenia Rubinos released her fantastic debut record Magic Trix. It was a fun, weird album with music rooted in her Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage. Last Friday, Rubinos released her second album, Black Terry Cat, on ANTI Records, and it is a big shift for the songwriter. Magic Trix was a fun listen, it was chaotic, it was groovy, and songs like “Ultima” were fun and lighthearted. Black Terry Cat focuses in on a more hip hop and soul style, and the lyrics are politically and socially aware and they are also very witty.
Upon hitting play on Black Terry Cat, we are treated to a 24-second intro of harmonies before Rubinos launches into the funky “Don’t Wanna Be”. “Mexican Chef” is a song about the jobs many Latin American immigrants take up when they come to New York with Rubinos playing their heritage against the food they are serving, singing lines like “Chinese restaurant, Mexican Chef!”. On “See Them”, Rubinos sings “how do you spell angry brown girl?” on a track where she also supplies some great vocal percussion.
Rubinos’ drummer Marco Buccelli also adds a ton to the record, “Black Stars” has this driving drumbeat with this wicked synth bass that make it into a killer track. “Just Like I” gets heavy with guitar distortion and a stomping drumbeat. Lyrically, Rubinos proclaims “I’m just like your sister, your brother, your mother, with the same teeth I’ll smile, I’ll bite you.” “Lonely Lover” has this slick bass work to it, and Rubinos’ vocal harmonies add so much to the track.
Black Terry Cat draws so much influence from other styles of music; however, Rubinos’ style and creativity stand on its own. “Laugh Clown” has this incredible modern soul feel to it while “I Won’t Say” features Rubinos rapping over a track that is heavily influenced by classic hip hop. “How Strange It Is” closes the album with a stumbling drumbeat, an eclectic collection of woodwind instruments and piano playing, and Rubinos repeating “how strange it is to be in this world”.
We described Rubinos’ debut as “controlled chaos”, and on Black Terry Cat, musically there is a lot of chaos, and it’s all good. Black Terry Cat draws from many influences, from hip-hop to soul to Latin music. Rubinos and the artists who played on this record are also very creative and are able to create great moments on the record, from the organ intro to “Right?” to the bass grooves throughout and the instrumental interludes, and Rubinos’ ability to use her voice almost as a weapon. Black Terry Cat is full of that, and it’s a huge step forward from Magic Trix.
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