In the age of endless bedroom-pop auteurs, few truly live up to such genre with a ridiculous name. However, with Cuco, the name in which Omar Banos performs, it’s safe to say that his debut album, Para Mi is one of the best records in a long while to come out from a dude making records, as he says on one track, “sitting in my room/I’m all alone now/missing you”.
Cuco first made waves with 2016’s Wannabewithu mixtape, quickly followed by a string of successive mixtapes and singles including the bilingual “Lo Que Siento” that were streaming juggernauts, netting over 70 million streams in some cases. Para Mi builds on the successes of those releases by expanding its scope. Here, everything just sounds a little more widescreen.
After a short intro track, the album kicks off with “Keeping Tabs”, a half-sung, half-rapped synth track highlighted by an easy backbeat. It feels summery and strange, featuring a super-weird guest spot from Suscat0. That’s followed by the breakout “Bossa No Sé,” bridging a bossa nova track with 808 drums. This kind of inventiveness is all over the record, showing Cuco finding ways to bridge unlike styles to create a sound that’s irresistible. Jean Carter’s verses on this song about a love-hate relationship feel perfect here, breezing through the track without ever really touching down. It has weight, but it’s not heavy.
That’s also probably a good way to describe the record. Para Mi has a lot going on. The “Perihelion” interlude sounds like it’s ripped from the soundtrack of a low budget action-adventure movie from the 80’s, but then that crests again the shimmering “Feelings”, despite its lilt, feels a little burnt out. It’s a cool effect, especially from the highs of what came before and after. “Lovetripper” features Johnny Marr sounding guitars, with a buzzy bass line adding a sense of dread under a track about someone being “special”. It’s this sort of texture that adds a ton of dimension to Cuco’s sleepy delivery.
Para Mi is a rewarding listen, mainly because there’s so much to dig into. Songs transform into themselves, whether it’s the indie-rock guitars on “Hydrocodone”, the soft rock power balladry of “Far Away from Home” and the tropical one-two punch of “Best Friend” and “Do Better”. While Cuco may sharpen his approach as his career continues, we’ll be able to look back at this album as a major flex of the scope of his talent. It’s every idea all in one here – a little messy, a lot exciting, but entirely singular. It’s hard to be convincing when you’re throwing it all at the wall, but Cuco does it confidently. It’s well worth your time.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media
This review was written by Brendan Hilliard, of Obviate Media. Obviate Media is a Chicago-based blog covering music and pop culture. Check them out, here: Obviate Media.